The Numbers Behind Russell Westbrook's Nightmare Fourth-Quarter Performance in Game 2
It's been a great year in the career of Russell Westbrook.
After watching his Thunder buddy, Kevin Durant, walk out the door in free agency this offseason, Westbrook proceeded to take the league by storm. He stockpiled an NBA-record 42 triple-doubles and joined Oscar Robertson as the only other player to average a triple-double over the course of a regular season. He might even win his first MVP Award.
More recently, Westbrook, with 51 points in Game 2 against the Rockets last night, posted the biggest triple-double in playoff history. There was just one big problem with his performance -- Oklahoma City lost, 115-111.
For the same reason the Thunder were even in the game going into the fourth -- Westbrook, duh -- they were out of it as the clock dipped below the two-minute mark in the final frame. Because, as much of a monster as Westbrook was through the first three quarters, he was on the wrong side of a nightmarish fourth-quarter performance.
To see the magnitude of the dropoff in play, look no further than Westbrook's net rating by quarter.
With an offensive rating of 148.7 points per 100 possessions, Westbrook sported a net rating of 53.8 through 11 first-quarter minutes. In 9 minutes in the second quarter, he saw his net rating drop to 7.8 before returning to 39.1 in the third. Then came the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, Westbrook had an offensive rating of just 79.9 -- down by almost 50% from where it stood after one frame. His defensive rating of 109.4 was only better than his third quarter, but the inefficient offense worked out to a net rating of minus-29.4.
So what in the what happened?
It's almost hard to blame him with the supporting cast he's forced to work with, but Westbrook went too far in trying to win the game all by his own self.
For the first three quarters of the game, Westbrook's usage rate sat at 38.7%, 51.8% and 59.0% in each respective quarter. Maybe we should've seen it coming, but even for this unbelievable usage monster, Westbrook's rate of 66.2% in the fourth was insane. And, at that, he played all 12 minutes down the stretch.
Now, sure, we've seen Westbrook take the majority of his team's possessions and turn them into gold -- that just didn't work out this time. Westbrook's one-man show turned into pressing.
Of his 18 fourth-quarter shot attempts, Westbrook converted a mere 4 of them while hitting just 1 three-pointer in 7 attempts from beyond the arc. Even taking into account Westbrook's 6-of-8 shooting from the line, his true shooting percentage was 34.9% in the fourth.
The reasoning for that is as simple as him taking tough shot after tough shot. According to NBA.com, Westbrook took 21 contested field goal attempts over the course of the entire game. On those attempts, he shot 28.6%, compared to 50% on uncontested shots.
In looking back at the tape, 14 of Westbrook's 18 fourth-quarter attempts seem to be contested in some fashion. When he wasn't forcing the issue in the paint, he was looking to take a taller defender off the bounce on the perimeter, hoping to connect on a pull-up or fadeaway jumper.
Neither strategy was working. With a hand in Westbrook's face -- seemingly, at all times -- Trevor Ariza and company made shooting from the perimeter quite difficult for him. Accordingly, he was 1 for 5 from inside 10 feet and 2 of 9 when a defender was within 4 feet.
Westbrook's frustration mounted as his one-man show failed. And now the Thunder are facing an 0-2 series deficit heading home to Oklahoma City, and they are staring long odds dead in the face. Per our models, OKC has a meager 12.12% chance to win the series, and a Houston sweep is more likely (22.36%) than a Thunder comeback.
You can't say Westbrook didn't try in Game 2 -- he set another triple-double record, after all -- but this might've been one of those times when less would've been better, at least in the final stanza.