Earl Watson on Westbrook: ‘Russ is a pattern player’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 30: Russell Westbrook
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 30: Russell Westbrook /

Former Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson shared his thoughts on how OKC Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook should approach late-game situations. The comments aired in a recent episode of The Herd on Fox Sports One.

Russell Westbrook has taken a lot of criticism for his play in crunch-time after the OKC Thunder’s Friday night loss to the Denver Nuggets. Much of that centered around him hoisting a three-pointer at the end of regulation with the score tied. Reminder: this was before Mason Plumlee blocked Jerami Grant at the rim (off a Westbrook pass) to seal the one-point win for Denver in a critical game for both teams.

Former Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson had some advice for the League MVP over the weekend. Watson wants Westbrook to be more methodical and less spontaneous down the stretch.

“Russ needs to learn how to finish games in a pattern-type of way.” Watson said. “Russ needs one set when they’re down one, another set when they’re down two and another set for when they’re down three.”

The full video is below.

Is Watson correct?

Although it might not be what you want to hear, Watson has a point. Westbrook only drained several seconds off the clock before walking into a contested three-pointer with the score tied. Playing Devil’s Advocate now, the clip shows nothing was really happening around Russ to give him other options.

Although it’s hard to fault the rest of the team for trying to stay out of his way, it would have been nice to see some off-ball movement. Steven Adams or Grant could have set an off-ball screen for Paul George as a nice Plan B. Adams and Westbrook could have ran their classic pick and roll. Yet while Westbrook was waiting to see what might develop, he was forced into taking a difficult shot.

Westbrook wasn’t the only one being criticized after the loss. Head coach Billy Donovan was also questioned for leaving Carmelo Anthony on the bench during the fourth quarter. Click the blue link below for a dive into other questionable decisions and resolutions.

Next: Five stats that show the Thunder what wins games

Nevertheless, implementing a few of Watson’s ideas instead of improvising  on the fly could help the Thunder win those close games down the stretch. They’ve struggled with it through the seasons, but improvements were made in Sunday night’s Pelicans win.

Let’s hope they build on that performance before the Playoffs start.