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Houston Rockets: Googling ‘Russell Westbrook crunch time’ is not pretty

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Russell Westbrook doesn’t have the best track record in late-game situations, and that was evident in the Houston Rockets’ Game 6 loss to the Thunder.

With 5:33 remaining in Game 6 against the Thunder, Russell Westbrook entered the game to help the Houston Rockets try to close the series out. From then on, an assist, a rebound, and a layup with 1:09 remaining were the only positive things he did to close out the game.

Westbrook went 1-for-3 in that stretch, but what was more detrimental to the Rockets were his two costly turnovers, including one while down by two with 7.6 seconds remaining. Despite playing fewer minutes than all other starters to manage his quad, Russell had the most turnovers in the game with seven.

Given the style the Rockets have adopted this season, we expect to see their primary ball-handlers in Westbrook and James Harden with a high turnover rate. After all, they tied for second in the NBA in turnovers per game with 4.5 during the regular season.

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Doing a google search for ‘Russell Westbrook crunch time’ specifically comes up with headlines such as: “Russell Westbrook Remains a Huge Problem in Crunch Time”, “Russell Westbrook and the Thunder melt down in crunch time”, and this straightforward headline: “Why Russell Westbrook Is Not Clutch”. These stories all range from 2017 to the present day.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to Westbrook in late-game situations, though. As ESPN shared in March 2019, he had the most go-ahead field goals over the previous three seasons. The playoffs are a different animal, however.

On potential tying or go-ahead FGAs in the last minute of a playoff game, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are a combined 5-41. They have the two worst FG% in that situation (min. 15 FGAs) since 1997, the first year we have play-by-play data to calculate it. pic.twitter.com/NJGkVQk36c

— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) September 1, 2020

Part of being a superstar is being able to make the right decisions when it matters most, and so far, Westbrook hasn’t been able to do that. Fortunately for the Rockets, Russell knows he has plenty to improve in that regard with Game 7 looming.

Russell Westbrook on the Rockets turnovers: "We've gotta take care of it. Starting with myself. I'm just trying to figure out rhythm and timing, but I'll figure it out next game."

— Anthony Duckett (@a_duckett) September 1, 2020

Everything will be on the line for the Houston Rockets when they take the court to avoid a humiliating first-round loss to Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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For the sake of their coach, their superstars’ legacies, and the organization as a whole, the Rockets will need to play picture-perfect basketball on Wednesday.

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