Russell Westbrook had a rather dramatic Game 4 against the Jazz on Monday night. The Thunder got ran off the floor by Utah in a 113-96 beat down. Westbrook was at the center of the loss. As the game spiraled out of control for OKC, Westbrook found himself feuding with the entire state of Utah.
Westbrook had something to say to everybody, whether it was about Jae Crowder, slapping the arm of Rudy Gobert, or just the mere existence of Ricky Rubio. Even former presidential candidate Mitt Romney had .of
Westbrook came into the game with a reason to be angry at Rubio. The Jazz guard is having a phenomenal series and racked up a triple-double against Westbrook in Game 3. Westbrook was asked about Rubio after the Spaniard's 26-point, 10-assist, 11-rebound outing. He.
"He made some shots." Westbrook said. "Too comfortable. I'ma shut that shit off next game though. Guarantee that."
Westbrook got his wish in Game 4. Rubio shot 4-for-12 from the field. He had 13 points, eight assists, and six rebounds -- a stat line that is serviceable but nothing incredible compared to Westbrook's 23 points and 14 rebounds.
The problem is, Westbrook did very little to actually impact Rubio's final stat line. According to NBA.com, Rubio shot 1-for-3 from the field while being guarded by Westbrook. The tape shows that Westbrook even that impact would be an exaggeration .
Rubio didn't shoot well from the floor, but that had nothing to do with Westbrook. For example, here's a wide-open corner 3-pointer that Rubio ended up missing. Part of the reason he is so open has to do with Westbrook trying to unnecessarily draw contact against Rubio on the other end of the floor. Rubio leaks out in response and misses the shot. Westbrook isn't back on defense until Rubio is shooting.
This is how most of the game went for Westbrook vs. Rubio. If Rubio was shooting, then Westbrook was usually not involved in the play because he had either switched off of him or left Rubio alone to guard a different player all together. These misses have no involvement from Westbrook at all.
Of course, there's more to defense than preventing makes. Rubio is a creator, and defenders should be trying to deny him the ability to make passes and penetrate. In the instances where Westbrook was on Rubio defensively he struggled at this. The Thunder would frequently bring over help and create open passing lanes for those against him.
On one possession, Westbrook over-pursued on a screen and Steven Adams had to come up and provide help. Gobert dived towards the basket with no resistance and got an easy dunk in response.
The opposite happened with Derrick Favors. This time, Westbrook switched on to Favors but was immediately taken inside and dunked on.
Westbrook struggled keeping up with Rubio all night. Players were consistently having to run off their man to help him. Here, Paul George has to come off Joe Ingles to prevent a shot near the rim which results in an open 3-pointer from the corner.
Eventually, the Jazz took Westbrook off of Rubio because he couldn't contain him. They put Westbrook on to Ingles instead. The result might have been worse, because Westbrook refused to stick to his man. He would drift off so far that all the Jazz had to do was simply kick out to Ingles for open shots, and the Australian sharpshooter dropped 20 points on 12 field-goal attempts. It was that kind of night for Westbrook defensively. Just a complete disaster.
Some of this doesn't fall solely on Westbrook. The pick-and-roll is complicated, and it's no coincidence that Rubio would usually team up with whomever Carmelo Anthony was guarding to put Westbrook against a screen. This typically forced a switch that the Jazz were able to manipulate. However, a lot of what Westbrook was doing could have been prevented had he just played farther off of Rubio.
Rubio's shot better as the season progressed, and his 5-for-8 shooting in Game 3 certainly showed why he needs to be taken seriously, unlike he was in the past. But Westbrook's habit of going over screens against Rubio puts the entire Thunder defense at risk. He ends up forcing others to provide help because he's playing overly aggressive against a historically poor shooter. That allows Rubio to create even easier looks for the rest of the Jazz.
That's what Utah did all night. They exploited Westbrook's over-aggressiveness and lack of discipline on defense. He never adjusted and by the end of the night, he was more known for screaming than for anything he did on a court. Westbrook didn't shut Rubio down. He shut himself down.