The Los Angeles Lakers scrapped to their second straight win after topping the San Antonio Spurs. Star point guard Russell Westbrook excelled in his increased role with LeBron James sidelined. Despite Westbrook‘s standout performance, former Lakers great Shaquille O’Neal issued a stern warning to the former league MVP.
Russell Westbrook’s breakout performance helps lift Lakers to second straight win
The Lakers ventured into San Antonio on Tuesday night shorthanded without LeBron James due to soreness in his right ankle.
James’ absence increased the offensive role for Westbrook, who excelled putting up his best performance in a Lakers uniform, posting a near-triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in 40 minutes. Westbrook poured in 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lift his team overcome a double-digit deficit to grab a second straight win.
Westbrook worked aggressively to find his offense, making 13-of-27 shot attempts. The former league MVP worked tirelessly to get to the rim while dishing it out to teammates in transition.
“We understand that with (James’ absence) comes the responsibility of making guys around us better,” Westbrook said after the game via ESPN. “And tonight, I thought A.D. did a great job of just being aggressive all night, miss and makes, finishing well around the basket. He was big for us tonight.”
Despite Westbrook putting up his best outing in his brief Lakers’ tenure, a former franchise great delivered a stern warning.
Shaquille O’Neal dishes out a dose of reality to Russell Westbrook about his role with the Lakers
Westbrook‘s standout outing received plenty of praise from head coach Frank Vogel and his teammates, but not all were enthused.
During a segment on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” after the game, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal aired a stern message to Westbrook concerning his role once James returned.
“He’s going to have to figure out ways to make an impact without being on the ball all the time,” O’Neal said. “His whole career he’s been No. 1 or No. 2, now he’s No. 3 or 4. I agree with Chuck, he has to push the pace. When they miss he should be the first one down the court trying to get layups. When he gets the ball he should be aggressive.
“The only reason he had 33 [points] tonight is because he took 27 shots. Now when LeBron has the ball all the time throwing it to AD, he’s not going to be able to get 27 shots. So again, he’s going to have to find a way to make an impact on the game without having the ball all time.”
There is certainly credence to O’Neal’s comments as Westbrook sits third in the pecking order. He will have to be more selective with his playmaking as James assumes the bulk of the ball-handling duties.
As O’Neal pointed out, Westbrook must work on being active off the ball to garner a more consistent offensive role. It remains a significant adjustment process, but he has the foundation to build off to make it work.
Lakers’ supporting cast continues to find its footing
Westbrook‘s role remains prominently in the spotlight, but it shouldn’t overshadow the supporting cast’s improving play.
Malik Monk is demonstrating to be a reliable offensive factor after putting together his two best scoring performances in the Lakers’ wins. In spot starting duty, Monk performed well with 17 points behind 4-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. It featured him hitting a critical 3-pointer to give Los Angeles a 114-112 lead with 58.6 seconds left in regulation.
Meanwhile, rookie Austin Reaves’s promising play is earning him more playing time. He’s coming off a season-high 30 minutes, posting 10 points in Tuesday’s win over the Spurs. Reaves has garnered more trust from the coaching staff and teammates due to his awareness and feel for the game.
It may be early in the season, but it’s undoubtedly an encouraging sign.