NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Westbrook 'made it clear' Wizards weren't missing postseason

By Sports Desk May 21, 2021

Russell Westbrook has revealed how he inspired the Washington Wizards to turn their season around in a run to the playoffs that concluded with Thursday's play-in win over the Indiana Pacers.

The Wizards, who signed Westbrook in a trade from the Houston Rockets for John Wall last year, made a miserable 6-17 start to 2020-21.

However, that form was flipped on its head at the end of the campaign, with Washington 17-6 over their final 23 games to finish eighth in the East with a 34-38 record.

Westbrook and Co could not carry that momentum into the initial seven-eight play-in, going down 118-100 to the Boston Celtics, but the Wizards recovered to thrash the Pacers 142-115 and reach a first-round series against number one seed the Philadelphia 76ers.

It means Westbrook, who had 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds against Indiana, will appear in the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, having missed the postseason only twice in a 13-season NBA career.

"We were struggling and everybody was doubting us on the outside and we had to figure out a way to knuckle up and make the playoffs," he said of Washington's regular season turnaround. "Simple as that.

"I didn't care what happened in the previous games. Moving forward, we had to figure ourselves out, look at ourselves in the mirror, starting with myself.

"I made it clear to the guys that we'll make it."

The Wizards still had work to do on Thursday, though, with Westbrook dismayed by his performance in the defeat to the Celtics.

Having averaged a triple-double this season – 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds – to pass Oscar Robertson's record with 184 career triples, Westbrook felt he could have offered more than his 20 points, five assists and 14 rebounds in Boston.

Asked about his mood after that loss, he said: "You should ask my wife, my mom, my dad, my brother, everybody, they're so annoyed with me right now.

"I was so p***ed at my performance. I just wasn't feeling the best when my team needed me the most, but everything happens for a reason.

"I knuckled down and took care of my body and made sure that my mind was right coming into tonight and made sure that my energy and effort was there and my team could follow me."

Bradley Beal led Washington on Thursday with 25 points.

The ninth-year guard trailed only Stephen Curry with his 31.3 points this season, yet he had played only 40 career playoff games heading into this postseason.

Although Beal insists he was always happy on the Wizards – his only team – it is a relief to return.

"It feels that much better knowing that you're playing for something and you're winning," he said. "Obviously, you always want to be on the other side of that and win.

"So, in that regard, it definitely feels great to be back in a playoff position, but it doesn't change my happiness one way or another.

"You're obviously going to be happy to be in the playoffs and be happy to win games. When you're losing, you're not going to be that way. So, I'm definitely happy we are where we are."

The 76ers are next and Westbrook added: "They're the number one team in the East for a reason.

"They've been playing well all season long. They're a good team overall, with a lot of different talent on the team.

"We've got to make sure we prepare the right way and go and win the series, taking one game at a time."

Related items

  • Paul hails 'nice piece of history' as Suns break franchise record win streak Paul hails 'nice piece of history' as Suns break franchise record win streak

    Phoenix Suns veteran guard Chris Paul says breaking the franchise's record win streak is a "nice piece of history" but insists he was not thinking about it in Thursday's win over the Detroit Pistons.

    The Suns completed an 18th consecutive victory, downing the lowly Pistons 114-103 to improve to 19-3 record to top the Western Conference. Phoenix's 18 straight wins broke their previous franchise-best mark from the 2006-07 season of 17.

    Paul, who had 12 points and 12 assists against the Pistons, has played in many successful sides before but found unique joy in the Suns' record-breaking streak, even if it was not at the front of his mind.

    "It's cool. I really wasn’t thinking about it," Paul said during the post-game news conference. "Obviously it's a nice piece of history for the team but for us it's always about that feeling of playing the game the right way.

    "We say this every night, a win is a win, but we feel like we could’ve played better."

    He added: "It's exciting. Some were so long ago so you forget. To be on this journey with young guys and having rookies on the team, it's cool. It's also cool that guys aren’t stressing about it either. it just happened."

    The Suns were without All-Star guard Devin Booker for the first time this season due to a hamstring injury but had plenty of contributions.

    Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne both scored 19 points off the bench, while JaVale McGee added 10 points from 15 minutes too.

    "We were hooping. It was like most nights," Paul said when asked about the side covering Booker.

    "I aint surprised. I don’t expect anything less. It's how our team is. Every night it's someone else stepping up and we expect that."

    Suns head coach Monty Williams was awarded Western Conference coach of the month prior to the game after an unbeaten November, with Paul offering up his praise.

    "He's a big reason why I wanted to come play here, because of who he is as a person and as a coach, the principles and the accountability we have here," Paul said.

  • Ronaldo and Fernandes not dwelling on Arsenal win as Man Utd look ahead to Rangnick tenure Ronaldo and Fernandes not dwelling on Arsenal win as Man Utd look ahead to Rangnick tenure

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes both refused to dwell on Manchester United's come-from-behind win against Arsenal as the Red Devils look ahead to life under interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

    With Rangnick watching in the stands, Ronaldo scored twice to lead United past Premier League rivals Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday before caretaker boss Michael Carrick announced his departure from Old Trafford.

    Carrick – who was placed in temporary charge after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, overseeing wins against Villarreal and Arsenal, and a draw at Chelsea – revealed he would not be staying on and serving as a coach under Rangnick.

    After helping to snap United's three-game drought in the Premier League, superstar Ronaldo quickly switched focus as Rangnick prepares to see the embattled giants through until the end of the season.

    Ronaldo, who scored the 800th and 801st goals of his illustrious career, wrote via his social media pages: "Our minds are already set on the next game, there's no time to celebrate!

    "Today's win was very important to get back on track, but there's still a long road to go until we reach our destination… Congrats to all my team-mates, great spirit tonight."

    United – seventh in the standings and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea – scored three goals in a home Premier League game against Arsenal for the first time since February 2016, with Carrick completing all 90 minutes that day.

    The Red Devils were forced to come from behind following Emile Smith Rowe's 13th-minute opener – Fernandes restoring parity a minute before half-time.

    Fernandes made his 100th competitive appearance for United. Since his club debut in 2020, he has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other player for Premier League sides (79 - 45 goals, 34 assists).

    Ronaldo put United ahead seven minutes into the second half, only for Martin Odegaard to equalise two minutes later, though the Portuguese superstar sealed United's victory via a 70th-minute penalty.

    "Every win is important for us at this moment," Portuguese star Fernandes told Amazon Prime post-match.

    "We know that we have been through a lot of ups and downs, and it has been hard for us to come out of that.

    "Today we got a great win, but we cannot stop here and be satisfied because we beat Arsenal. The next game is coming quick, so we have to put our heads on that straight away and be ready for that one."

    On countryman and team-mate Ronaldo, Fernandes added: "What can you say about that? It's incredible.

    "He's proving game by game, year by year, season by season, that he wants to keep being the best, he wants to be the best and that's what he did.

    "He doesn't need anyone to motivate him, he knows how to do it and how to carry on scoring goals."

    Before players were told of Carrick's decision to step down, Fernandes hailed the former United midfielder.

    Carrick, winner of five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown among other honours during his 12 years as a player in Manchester, made 464 appearances for United between 2006 and 2018 before stepping into coaching.

    "Michael can be a really good manager in the future if he gets the chance," said Fernandes. "He knows how to speak, he knows a lot about football.

    "He was one of those great players that not a lot of people talk about but from what I know and what I have seen, he can be a top coach."

  • Grizzlies savour record-breaking 152-79 victory over Thunder: It feels great Grizzlies savour record-breaking 152-79 victory over Thunder: It feels great

    De'Anthony Melton and the Memphis Grizzlies could not hide their delight after embarrassing the Oklahoma City Thunder by 73 points to set an NBA record.

    The merciless Grizzlies broke the record for the largest margin of victory in league history thanks to Thursday's devastating 152-79 triumph.

    Oklahoma City were without star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey away to the Grizzlies in Memphis.

    The Grizzlies, who were without a star of their own in Ja Morant, took full advantage as they eclipsed the 1991 Cleveland Cavaliers (68 points) for the largest winning margin.

    "Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,'' said Melton, who put up 19 points for the Grizzlies.

    "And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it's always a blessing.

    "We knew with [Morant] going down what we had to do. We had to step up.''

    According to Stats Perform, 152 is the most points in NBA history by a team missing a player who was leading the team in total points and assists entering the game following Morant's absence.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up the slack with Morant sidelined, pouring in 27 points for the Grizzlies – who shot 62.5 per cent from the field.

    Melton, Santi Aldama (18), John Konchar (17), Dillon Brooks (11), Jarrett Culver (11), Xavier Tillman (11), Brandon Clarke (11) and Tyus Jones (10) all had double-digit points for the Grizzlies.

    Memphis, who have beaten the Thunder in four straight games for their best winning streak against the franchise since 2013-16, were also 52.8 per cent from three-point range as Jackson made six of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.

    "Franchise records are obviously great. Obviously proud of our guys that they don't think about that,'' Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said.

    "We're just motivated by what are our standards every single night. Tonight was on pretty full display both offensively and defensively.''

    Lu Dort was the pick of the Thunder players with 15 points on three-of-eight shooting in 25 minutes – Oklahoma City are now amid an eight-game losing streak.

    The Thunder (6-16) – in the process of a rebuild – were just 32.9 per cent from the floor in a forgettable display.

    "Tonight is not necessarily who we are,'' Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. "I think we've definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn't indicative of who our team is.''

    "Obviously, it was a combination of things,'' Daigneault said. "They played with great force and pace. They made some shots. We didn't shoot it well early and just really couldn't get a grip on the game. Any part of the game.''

    Daigneault added: "When you compete, you have exposure to the highs and lows of competition. And competition comes with great joy, and it also comes with grief and frustration and anger. And when you step in that ring, that's what you expose yourself to is all of those things.

    "It's why the joy feels so good, because when you get punched and you taste your own blood, it doesn't feel right.''

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.