After one reduction back whenever the Washington Wizards were fighting through a coronavirus-disrupted, injury-depleted and defense-optional stretch of this year that place them 15 games under .500, Russell Westbrook assembled his teammates to talk his thoughts.
In accordance with trainer Scott Brooks, Westbrook delivered a”very enthusiastic, very direct discussion” that basically amounted to: ” We won’t miss the postseason.
Might have appeared far-fetched at the moment. Turns out Westbrook was true to his sentence.
Westbrook nearly made a triple-double Thursday night, Bradley Beal scored 25 points and the Wizards attained the NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed by overpowering the Indiana Pacers 142-115 from the play-in during Thursday night.
Washington led by as many as 38 and today faces Joel Embiid as well as the No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, signaling a significant turnaround for Brooks’ team, that was 17-32 before heading to a 17-6 run over the regular season’s past six weeks.
“Russell has a border, men, and I feel that the world should love that,” said Brooks, who also coached Westbrook in the onset of the point guard’s professional career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is a hooper. And occasionally, he is an upset hooper. But he is a hooper that only plays the ideal way and plays hard.”
Asked about his locker room conversation when things seemed gloomy, Westbrook explained:”We had been fighting and everybody had been telling us about the exterior and we needed to knuckle up”
A bit more than a week later breaking Oscar Robertson’s career record for many regular-season triple-doubles, Westbrook completed Thursday with 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, and it had been Beal — moment in the NBA in scoring 2 years in a row — whose 3-pointer opened a 30-point guide at 98-68 with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
“We were not able to sustain some of their punches,” Indiana’s Doug McDermott explained.
Chants during trips to the foul line, as did book center Robin Lopez within an appreciative if more tongue-in-cheek manner, by a giddy audience capped at 5,333 — a quarter of the stadium’s capacity — due to COVID-19 concerns.
Beal skipped the previous period entirely. Westbrook sat out the past 8 minutes and pitched his sneakers into a fan.
They have two elite players on this team and they are in the home,” explained Malcolm Brogdon, who led Indiana with 25 points. “Once men like this get their confidence going from the next quarter and begin rolling, there is not much you can perform.”
Asked when he believed he would be back next year, Bjorkgren explained:”My focus is to the players at this time, and I am not considering myself. I am really not. I would like to only do what is ideal for these men.”
-8 game in the Boston Celtics 118-100 Tuesday, and Westbrook was barely himself.
He shot 6 to 18. He had just five assists, less than half of the league-leading typical of 11.7.
“Just was not feeling my best when my team needed me ,” he explained. “Now I did a better job”
It was shut until early in the next quarter, once the score was 34-all.
From that point, Westbrook took over for a little, bullying his way through the lane and mean-mugging Pacers players. A 16-0 run created it 50-34 and motivated the Pacers to take a timeout. They never regained.
At one stage, Westbrook raised a hand and wiggled his hands while studying the racks, begging for more sound. Afterwards, Beal — that was coping with a strained left wing — wind-milled his arms while still grinning wildly.
The Pacers head into the offseason, although the Wizards are back in the postseason after falling out the previous two years prior to obtaining Westbrook at a transaction that sent John Wall into Houston.
Washington dealt with a COVID-19 epidemic that affected over half of its roster and contributed to some two-week hiatus. The group lost two starters to the season with injuries.
“We’ve got a great deal of sound to create,” Beal said.
Wizards: F Rui Hachimura scored 18 points, 10 over against Boston. … C Daniel Gafford’s five first-half cubes were the most from a Wizards player in a couple of years. He had 15 points and 13 rebounds.