Russell Westbrook had a historically good, and a historically bad performance in Game 2 of the Thunder's playoff series against the Rockets. He became the first player in NBA history to have a 50-point triple-double in the playoffs. He also went 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter, which set an NBA playoff record for shots attempted in the final quarter.
For comparison, that same night Stephen Curry (18), Klay Thompson (17) and James Harden (17) took fewer shots in their entire games.
The Thunder point guard was criticized after the game, with analysts saying he shouldn't be taking so many shots. But don't expect Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan to change his strategy, because he knows Westbrook doing what he wants is how his team will win games.
"Let's be honest. When Russell has been off the floor for us, there's been a differential," Donovan said Thursday.
A historic differential. Westbrook's 15.5 box plus-minus this season not only led the league, it was 2.6 points better than any other player in history. His VORP (value over replacement player) of 12.4 came out over the previous single-season best set by Michael Jordan (12.0).
In short: when Westbrook is on the floor doing his thing, the Thunder will succeed. His performances haven't led to victories yet, but it's hard to win on the road against a team like the Rockets. He at least kept the game close in Game 2, and that's all you can ask for: a chance to win.
"We’ve been playing that way all year,” Thunder guard Victor Oladipo said Thursday. “We’ve been in that situation all year and Russ has made shots. We’d all be sitting here talking differently if he was making shots in the first place and we would have won."
Westbrook likely won't be putting up 18 shots in a single quarter again, but he should have the green light to do it if that's what he feels is the right decision.
"I have an enormous amount of trust and confidence after being with Russell this season for 82 games and seeing the ways he's closed out games and different things that he's done," Donovan said. "I trust him when he's got the ball in terms of making decisions. Sometimes, when the ball goes in the basket, people have a tendency to say, 'Wow! This was just an unbelievable performance!' And 'Is he the best closer in the game?' And then when they don't go in, it's gonna be, 'Did he take too many shots?' I think there's always a balance there.
"Are there some shots and better ball movement we could have? Absolutely. Are there some shots that he took and plays that he made that I wouldn't take back? Absolutely. I think you're always looking to find that balance where we can collectively function as well as he can."
When the Thunder try to defend their home court Friday night against the Rockets, expect Westbrook to do what he did in Game 2, which is what he's been doing all year long.