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The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a difficult stretch, having dropped three of their last four games after bowing at Dallas on Saturday night, 105-103, and face of the franchise Russell Westbrook is pointing fingers.
The 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player managed only nine points on a 4-of-22 shooting performance in the loss to the Mavericks on Sunday night.
“I’ve just got to do a better job, man,” Westbrook told reporters after the defeat. “It’s really on me. I’ve been s— the last month or so. I’ve just got to get focused in and locked back in on what I need to do. I’ve got to help my guys out. I’ve been letting them down, man, just not being consistent on the offensive end.
“Defensively, I’m fine, but just being more consistent, because I pride myself on being the most consistent player in the league. I come out every night and compete, play hard and all that stuff. Missing and making shots is a part of the game, but I’ve got to do a better job, and that’s on me. I’m going to definitely do that, so I’m not really worried. We play tomorrow, and I’ll be better from then on. It’s on me.”
The game was the first time the seven-time All-Star did not reach double figures in which he attempted 20 or more shots from the field, having taken that many shots in 353 games, including postseason play. He did have nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals in the game.
Westbrook is shooting only 37.2 percent from the floor in December, the third-worst shooting performance in a month in his career and his worst since December 2009.
He missed all eight attempts from beyond the 3-point arc Sunday night and is shooting only 24.2 percent from deep on the season. Despite those numbers, Westbrook does not believe there is anything wrong with his shot mechanically.
“Nah, nah, nah,” said Westbrook, who had nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals. “I’ve been in worse positions, man. It’s not the worst thing. We’re third in the West. We’re winning games. It’s not about me. My job is to make sure we win games. I bring so much more to the game of basketball than offense. I defend at a high level, rebound, pass, whatever. I’ll do whatever for us to win games.
“So for me, I’m a basketball player. I’m very, very hard on myself because I’m able to do everything on the floor. And I don’t really think there’s many other guys in the league that play the game the way I do every night, so I pride myself on doing everything at a high level every night. If it’s scoring one night, then it’s assists and rebounding, whatever it is, defending — I pride myself on doing everything at a high level every single night. I’m going to be tougher on myself than anybody, so I’m not worried one bit.”
Despite the recent difficult times shooting the basketball, Westbrook, who leads the NBA in assists (10.1) and steals (2.7) and all backcourt players in rebounding (10.7), insists he won’t change the way he approaches each and every game.
“My approach never changes,” he said. “Like I said, scoring the basketball is not the only thing I can do. I’m the best rebounder at my position, the best passer at my position, the best defender at my position. I can do everything, and I pride myself on doing that. And every night, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it every single night. If the scoring ain’t it that night, then I’ll give it to somebody else to do it. I have no problem. My teammates have confidence in what I’m able to do, and I have confidence in them. So I just read the game, and the game will tell you what to do.”
Westbrook realizes he is being counted on by his teammates. The Thunder are 22-13 and stand third in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind first-place Denver (22-11).
“Every year, I try to come back and find ways to be a better leader and impact the game. This year, we have a better team,” he said. “Guys are better, so I don’t have to do as much. I don’t have to score 30 to impact the game, but I guarantee you I impact the game and teams know when I’m on the floor I can do whatever I need to do to make sure that we have a chance to win the game.”