3. Russell Westbrook not at full strength
During the first quarter of Monday night’s game, Russell Westbrook appeared to suffer an ankle injury. Russ hobbled to the sidelines before calling a timeout, which struck fear in the hearts of Houston Rockets fans.
Russ stayed in the game, which is no surprise considering the gladiator and tough competitor he is. Although Russ continued to play, he was clearly affected by the injury, as he didn’t play with the same aggression we’ve seen from him.
In fact, Russ only had 19 field-goal attempts, which is below the 22 he had been averaging prior to tipoff Monday. Furthermore, Russ was riding a 30-game streak of having at least 20 points heading into this game, which has become natural considering how he’s had unlimited access to the rim, due to the opposition’s strategy of matching their center on Russ when the Rockets are on offense.
There have only been three games during Russ’s 30 game streak in which he’s had 19 attempts or fewer, so its safe to say Russ would have attacked more if he were fully healthy. We noticed an uptick in turnovers for Russ, as he had six turnovers in the game, which he had also done only seven times during his streak.
Russ had three 3-point attempts, which is a number he had in less than half of the games during his streak. So in essence, he was shooting from the outside more than he had been of late, and driving to the basket less.
Russ did have a ferocious dunk late in the game, which raises questions regarding the extent of his injury, and if you were just looking at his statline you’d have even more questions. Russ finished the game with 24 points on 47.4 percent from the field, in addition to nine rebounds.
Russ has proven to be a key cog in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni‘s strategy, so with him hobbled and limited, that played a large part in the Rockets’ outcome. It’s a safe bet that a healthy Russ would have led to a Rockets victory, in spite of how poorly they played.
Next: No. 2