Westbrook’s karma game snaps Raptors win streak

Fun game, brutal result.

The Raptors appeared to have the game won until a late fourth quarter turnover and miraculous shot by Russell Westbrook sent the game to overtime where the Lakers improved to 7-2 in that scenario. Toronto falls a full game behind Cleveland for sixth in the East with the loss, and fail to take advantage of a freefalling Bulls team who got blown out in Phoenix. Vintage LeBron James highlights were stamped all over the fourth quarter, answered by a career night by Scottie Barnes. Let’s break it down further.

Encore Scottie

The rookie set the tone on Monday in L.A. with 15 points in an embarrassing first quarter for the Lakers where they were down 26-4 at one point. This game started completely different, with Frank Vogel opting to go bigger by starting Dwight Howard and Wenyen Gabriel instead of having LeBron at centre. Gabriel was massive early with 14 first quarter points, propelling the Lake Show to an early 15-5 lead.

However Scottie held his own, scoring the Raptors first 10 points.

Skip to the second half, where another Barnes run gave Toronto the lead after trailing by double digits at one point before halftime. Scottie scored in a variety of ways, adding 12 more points in the third quarter. The sidestep midrange shot was beautiful. The Lakers came in with the second worst fastbreak defence in the NBA, which Barnes took full advantage of.

Why not show more Scottie in the fourth? He finished with 31 points on 21 field goal attempts with 17 rebounds (all career-highs) and also found time to dish out 6 assists. Barnes went back and forth with LeBron in the 4th (more on that later) and was asked if he felt in awe of the moment after the game. Scottie said he was just locked in (his typical response) and also mentioned he was more of a Kobe fan.

Redemption

I’m not sharing it for anti-clout reasons, but a Thursday night video of Westbrook getting heckled in Toronto went viral. It’s been an extremely tough first year as a Laker for Russ with his declining athleticism on the court, and dealing with terrible fan behaviour towards him and his family off it. There have been montages of Westbrook missing terribly all season, much like he did with the game seemingly on the line.

Hitting the side of the backboard in a clutch moment, story of his season. Or maybe not because Russ took victory from the jaws of defeat on the ensuing possession. Precious Achiuwa was trapped near the sideline but managed to get the ball to Scottie. Westbrook stripped the rookie before he could get a full handle of the ball, and the rest was history.

Failed opportunity not intentionally fouling a 67 percent free throw shooter to avoid this disaster in the first place, but how about the presence of mind from Westbrook to get his right foot back behind the line? That was his fourth three of the game, something Russ had only done once before all season. Drake’s jaw dropping reaction above says it all, and it’s the same photo Westbrook’s wife sent him after the game.

What did Russ think?

Long before those heroics, Westbrook hurt the Raptors with dribble penetration and finding shooters which helped the Lakers take a double digit lead in the first half.

He also made the play on Avery Bradley’s go ahead three in overtime. Westbrook once again got in the paint, where he was met by a trio of Raptors. Meanwhile Avery Bradley floated crosscourt from the left corner to the right. By the time Pascal Siakam tried to recover, it was too late. Alvin Williams mentioned on Sportsnet’s broadcast that there should have been a rotation after Westbrook picked up his dribble.

In his final act, Westbrook stripped Barnes again in the paint with under 15 seconds left and the Raptors down two to seal the game. Scottie said after he was fouled on the play “for sure.” Russ finished with his 10th triple double of the season and shut up NBA social media for at least one night.

This is 37

LeBron was insane in the fourth and OT on both sides of the ball, finishing with 36 points. This was the most I’ve seen James cut off ball for baskets in a long time. Then there were other moments of sheer greatness (banking in an impossible bank three like he did at Washington in 2017) or muscling in shots with all five Raptors in the paint. Classic LeBron, what can you do?

 

It’s the first time LeBron has beaten Toronto since sweeping the Raptors in the 2018 playoffs. James had some nice things to say about Scottie postgame.

Sidenotes: More Precious Development

A hot topic over the last month is why Achiuwa isn’t starting over Khem Birch, but I’m increasingly becoming comfortable with his sixth man role. Precious played 36 minutes to Khem’s 17, and provides a scoring punch that is desperately needed off the bench.

Achiuwa had 18 points in this game. Look at him pull-up and trail for threes with the utmost confidence.

What’s Next?

A back to back, starting Sunday in Philadelphia. This is the third time the Raptors have had a win streak of five or more snapped at home after returning from a road trip, so maybe it’s better that they stay away from Scotia.

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