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Russell Westbrook: The Defensive Anchor for the Clippers

The Clippers have had all of the odds against them heading into the 2023 NBA Playoffs. With the loss of Paul George due to a knee injury, the team is missing their second option who is elite on both ends. However, the. The Clippers went into Phoenix and stole game one on the road, led by Kawhi Leonard who scored 38 points. While Leonard led the way, the biggest story through the first two games was the production of Russell Westbrook, who has been stellar on the defensive end. 

In many people’s eyes, the Phoenix Suns are the favorites to win the NBA championship. They made the big trade to bring in Kevin Durant and paired him alongside Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Ayton. Due to Durant’s selflessness as a leader, the trade automatically elevated the Suns’ title chances. However, the team still has to get through a tough Western Conference, which features teams that can take them down in a playoff series. So far, the Suns and Clippers have been in a dogfight the first two games with expectations to become more competitive. 

As Westbrook has been a member of the Clippers, the question surrounds whether he can make a big impact. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for him during his year-and-a-half stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, a new opportunity presented itself with the team across the hall. There were many reasons to be optimistic about Westbrook playing for the Clippers. He already has his connection with Paul George as the two were teammates in Oklahoma City four years ago. Also, his ability to be the primary ball handler allows others to move freely as Westbrook can be a dime dropper in the offense. 

During the first round series, Westbrook has been one of the biggest talks in this series. In game one, casuals will look at the horrific 3/19 shooting. As we have seen in recent years, Russell Westbrook is not a threat from the perimeter. Defenses will sag off of him and dare him to take open shots. However, the beauty of Russell Westbrook is his ability to impact the game from different perspectives, which shows his true leadership and willingness to win.

It’s the tenacity that Westbrook is playing with that gets people excited. He understands the importance of winning this series for the Clippers. Many can look at it as a revenge series as he faces his former teammate, Durant. However, it’s the type of intensity that the Clippers need to elevate as championship contenders. Through the first two games, Westbrook is averaging eight rebounds to go with 2.5 blocks. The two highlights of his defensive effort include a clutch block on Devin Booker down the stretch of game one while swatting Durant during the first quarter of game two. It’s big moments like those that make this series more enticing as it progresses. 

As the series is tied at 1-1, the Clippers are headed home for games three and four. There’s a possibility they can take control of this series if they take care of business at home. To do so, Westbrook will have to continue to bring his energy to the defensive end. He’s focused and motivated to help the Clippers take advantage of this series before heading back to Phoenix for game five. 

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