It only took three games but Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio finally has Russell Westbrook’s attention. The unheralded Utah floor general has scored 48 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the last two games as the Jazz have taken a 2-1 lead in their opening round playoff series. Now Oklahoma City’s all-everything team leader is vowing that we’ve seen the end of Rubio’s dominance.
Thunder's Russell Westbrook on Ricky Rubio's strong Game 3 performance: "He made some shots. Too comfortable. I'ma shut that s— off next game though. Guarantee that." pic.twitter.com/jHo9cbZt3n
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 22, 2018
If there were a player in the NBA who could, “flip a switch” and turn it on defensively then it’s certainly Russell Westbrook. That said, there are a few issues with the post game proclamation from OKC’s All-Star.
You can’t just decide to start playing defense. I mean, seriously, Russ could do that…but then again he can’t. He probably could for a half, or even a game, but the Thunder have to win three games to take the series. Can he flip that switch three time in four possible games?
Rubio isn’t the only problem. Donovan Mitchell has outscored Westbrook 23-2 in the fourth quarter of the last two games. Derrick Favors is becoming a significant nuisance and OKC has no answer for Rudy Gobert right now.
Add Westbrook’s 22-61 (36%) shooting in the first three games of the series and it’s easy to see that shutting down Rubio is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diagnosing OKC’s playoff issues.
What if it doesn’t work? If Russ is able to pull this off then he’ll go down in playoff history as one of the greatest sports accomplishments. It’s guaranteed that ESPN will do a 30 For 30 on it, and it’ll solidify his already established status as the greatest player in Thunder history.
— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) April 22, 2018
But, what if it doesn’t work? Oklahoma City already has their backs against the wall and their unquestioned leader has put down a declaration of guarantee. If Rubio comes out with another triple-double type performance then I don’t see how the Thunder come back. I mean a 3-1 deficit would be difficult enough as is, but a 3-1 deficit with a blown guarantee would just be impossible to overcome.
Quin Snyder on Russell Westbrook’s guarantee to shut Rubio off: “He’s capable of doing that. I think that’s something they’re capable of, affecting the game that way. But people forget that Ricky’s played in a lot of big games. … I don’t think you overreact to that stuff.”
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) April 22, 2018
In a put up or shut up type situation, Russell Westbrook has no other option but to put up. He’s all in on this one.