For a change, Heat forward LeBron James isn’t the star player in an NBA Finals defending himself against harsh critics.
Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook came under fire after Game 2 of the Finals for his shot selection in the first half. He was 1 of 7 from the field in the first quarter and 2 of 10 at halftime. The poor numbers contributed to the Heat’s dominant first quarter. Miami led 18-2 at one point and outscored Oklahoma City 27-15 in the period.
After the game, Magic Johnson, ESPN basketball analyst and Hall of Fame guard, blasted Westbrook for his erratic play.
“That was the worst point guard in a championship finals I’ve eve seen,” Johnson said. “He was too wild. He was taking off-balance shots. You’ve got to come out and set the tone with Kevin Durant.”
Westbrook defended himself on Saturday, a practice day for both the Heat and Thunder at AmericanAirlines Arena. Game 3 of the Finals is on Sunday.
“I’m not making no adjustments,” Westbrook said. “Regardless of what anybody says or regardless of what you guys say about how I play, it doesn't matter. I'm going to play my game regardless of what happens.”
The Heat has outscored the Thunder 56-37 in the first quarters. In second quarters, the Heat and Thunder have matched each other point for point, 106-106. In second halves of Games 1 and 2, the Thunder outscored the Heat 111-85.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who also defended Westbrook on Saturday, contributed the slow starts to the nerves of playing the Finals for the first time and lack of aggression.
“We need Russell to score,” Brooks said. “I know some of you don't like that, but Russell is a very, very gifted, talented player, and we would not be in this position without Russell Westbrook.
“He missed two lay‑ups, he missed two 14‑foot pull‑ups, and he normally makes those. He got off to a bad start, but he came back. Without Russell in that second half, we don't cut the lead to two with a chance to tie at the end.”
Mostly guarded by Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, Westbrook is 2 of 12 in first quarters.
“Everybody thinks he should be a traditional point guard like a [John] Stockton or a Mo Cheeks,” Durant said. “There's a lot of people that cannot be like Russ, either. We need him to play the way he plays. Of course he's going to make mistakes, and we're all going to make mistakes.”