With long strides, Russell Westbrook emerged from the Clippers locker room as halftime ended and crossed the Chase Center field with no one else around him.
It was not unlike how Westbrook spent much of his night in the Clippers’ fourth straight loss. a 115-91 losssince the end of the All-Star break.
In an arena packed with nearly 18,064 seats, no one in the building was surrounded by more space than Westbrook in his fourth game since joining the team.
Golden State’s disrespect for Westbrook’s shooting was evident in the wide arc offered by his defender—often Draymond Green, but also sometimes a center—going down several steps in an open invitation to the 30% three-point shooter this season om shoots away when the Clippers hold the ball.
On multiple plays, Westbrook dribbled near the top of the three-point arc as the closest defenseman waited deep in the paint, more concerned with a Westbrook drive or pass than a shot.
He finished with eight points and six assists in 28 minutes.
The avoidance strategy is not unique in Westbrook’s career, but first employed to this extent as a Clipper, underlined the challenge of keeping his distance with Westbrook taking three of his 12 shots, and none of the seven he missed out. tried the paint. .
But as has become clear in four games since the end of the All-Star break, the Clippers’ challenges include, but are far from limited to, finding the best uses for their new point guard.
Westbrook was responsible for two turnovers, but also only two misses, during a game-breaking third quarter in which the Clippers (33-32) made more turnovers (seven) than field goals (four for 22), their 16 combined points short of the 22 were scored in the quarter by Golden State guard Jordan Poole.
The Clippers led by three as Westbrook went to the bench with 6:05 left in the third quarter. The bottom continued to fall out from there, the last 10 minutes of the quarter saw a 12-point Clippers lead flip into a 15-point Warriors lead – the third time in four games the Clippers have lost double-digit lead.
And this was while Stephen Curry was injured and Andrew Wiggins wasn’t playing either.
Trouble deepened in the fourth quarter, the deficit widening to 16 after Westbrook threw an entry pass badly at the post, then Poole made his fifth three-pointer on the next possession after George couldn’t chase him around a screen.
Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points while George made three of his 15 shots for 11 points. George made one of his eight 3-pointers and Eric Gordon made two of 10 from the arc, while Norman Powell shot one for nine from the bench.
Westbrook once again showed in pieces why the Clippers have been comfortable with his game thus far. Before the Warriors’ defense got going, he ended possession with a layup by picking up the pace in transition, then finished another possession with a precise pass from the top of the arc to George under the basket for a layup, even though the Warriors had. again filled the paint with defenders and provoked Westbrook to shoot. Westbrook threw alley-oops to Leonard in the first half and Mason Plumlee in the second.
While the Clippers have worked to integrate Westbrook over the past week, they’ve made it clear to him that they don’t encourage jump shots early in the shot clock, especially when he clears the dribble, and he’s largely resisted the temptation of midrange.
More troubling was the play of a defense that has been in the bottom third of the league on defense since February 1.
Gordon and Plumlee started because starting center Ivica Zubac and starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. did not play due to what the team called calf and elbow problems respectively. Zubac had returned to the starting lineup just one game earlier after missing two consecutive games due to a calf strain. However, Morris had shown no signs of discomfort or injury after a home loss on Tuesday.