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took a stutter step forwar
January 30, 2019
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shushu
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OKLAHOMA CITY - Russell Westbrook has taken his game up a notch since Kevin Durants latest injury.In six games since Durants latest setback, Westbrook has averaged 30.2 points, 8.1 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 3.2 steals for Oklahoma City. The three-time All-Stars overall scoring average of 28 points would lead the league if he had played in enough games to qualify, but he missed 14 games early in the season with a broken bone in his right (non-shooting) hand. A player must compete in 70 per cent of his teams contests to officially top a category.Westbrook always has been a highlight waiting to happen, but this year, a greater mastery of the games nuances has complemented his freakish explosiveness. He is looking for his teammates more often, taking fewer three pointers, using his athleticism to get to the free throw line more frequently and playing steady defence consistently.Thunder coach Scott Brooks announced that Durant will return Wednesday night against Phoenix, but Westbrook already has left his impression.Its always a tough matchup when you see a top point guard, especially him, Portland point guard Damian Lillard said after both scored 40 points in their matchup last week. I respect him right up there at the top with any player in the league. Not just point guards — with any player in the league, because of how tough it is to play against him on both ends of the floor.With Durant out with a broken bone in his right foot, Westbrook opened the season with 38 points against Portland before getting hurt in the second game against the Los Angeles Clippers. In his first game back, Westbrook scored 32 points in 24 minutes in a win over the New York Knicks. With Durant sidelined, Westbrook had 34 points, 11 assists and five steals in a Christmas Day win at defending champion San Antonio. He recently had a stretch of games in which he scored at least 26 points snapped at 11.He has increased his defensive focus, too. His 2.3 steals per game would be ahead of the league leader if he had played enough games.Hes been locked in for longer stretches, Thunder forward Nick Collison said. Just his basic defence, starting with pressuring the ball and staying in front of his man and being in the right spots — hes been a lot more consistent with that, and I think thats part of maturing for him and realizing how important it is for him to play both ends.As an offensive player, Westbrooks greatest improvement has been in shot selection. He attempted 4.7 3-pointers per game last season, but that average is down to 3.1. Instead, hes driving to the hoop, drawing fouls and shooting 9.5 free throws per game.Its (the 3-pointer) not always a great shot for myself or for my team, so Ive got to do a better job of taking those out, Westbrook said. My advantage is attacking, regardless of whos in front of me, and Ive got to use my advantage to help my team and myself.Westbrook still has his moments. Hes shooting about 40 per cent in the fourth quarter this season, and his assists drop significantly late in games. He still sometimes forces things, especially when Durant isnt playing. But his immense talent and overall play makes those moments more tolerable.Hes had a great month of shooting the ball, Brooks said. Hes had a couple of off shooting nights, which every player will go through. His shot selection for the month of December, since hes been back, has been good, he said. All in all, hes played great basketball for us, and put us in position to win a lot of games.Westbrooks increased maturity has extended beyond the court. When things dont go well, he has accepted responsibility. After he got a technical foul late in regulation in the loss to Portland that helped fuel the Trail Blazers comeback, he took the hit.That was my fault, he said. I think that was the turning point in the game, for us and our energy. I didnt think I deserved it (the technical), but Ive got to do a better job of controlling my emotions, especially when the game is on the line like that. I take the blame for that. It turned the whole game around for them and it gave them a chance to win the game.More often than not, Westbrooks play has led to wins. The Thunder are 15-17 overall, but 11-7 with Westbrook in the lineup.The game is continuing to slow down for him, like it does for all players, Brooks said. I like what hes doing. Hes been able to lead us game after game after game. Hes a better player all the way around.___Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP . Brandon Parker Raiders Jersey . -- Thirty years ago, the Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime, a game that remains the highest scoring in NBA history. P.J. Hall Jersey . -- Aaron Rodgers isnt out for revenge in Green Bays season opener. http://www.officialauthenticra.....ersey.html . -- Isaiah Pead took a stutter step forward, then raced to the left sideline and travelled 60 yards up the field before finally getting tripped up by a leg tackle. Kyle Wilber Jersey .Y. - His opponent couldnt stop him, and LeBron James didnt quite know what to think when his coach tried. Doug Martin Raiders Jersey . The 29-year-old from Port Colborne, Ont., who trains out of San Diego, will fight bantamweight champion (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey on July 5 in the co-main event of UFC 175 in Las Vegas.Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week, they give a special NHL playoff edition of Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, where the panel gives their Stanley Cup winner prediction. Bruce Arthur, National Post My thumb is up to the Boston Bruins who I think are going to be the 2014 Stanley Cup champions. Remember last season, there was a thought that Claude Julien would get fired if they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and jeopardy could extend all the way up to the general managers chair and they did what they did. I think theyre in better shape heading into the playoffs then they were last season, when they had a compressed schedule following the Boston Marathon bombings, they were a tired team in the first round and really, more than anything, they have the easiest road to the Stanley Cup Final of any Stanley Cup contender. I think Bostons ready. Steve Simmons, SUN Media It hurts me to say this just because of the history but Im going thumbs up to the San Jose Sharks, who year in and year out disappoint at this time of year, but I look at this team and all that size up front. The move of Joe Pavelski to left wing has really completed this forward group nicely and I think Marc-Edouard Vlasics play at the Olympics taught him that hes a big-time guy now.ddddddddddddHe can elevate his game and I think that team, with Todd McLellan coaching, can come out of the west and can beat the Boston Bruins. Theyre too big and theyre too fast. Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated My thumb is up to the Chicago Blackhawks because consistency is the hob gobble in little minds and nobody has a littler mind than I do. I picked them at the start of the year, I picked them at the deadline, and Im picking them now because Patrick Kanes going to be back, Jonathan Toews is going to be back, and because the Blackhawks have the best defenceman in the Stanley Cup tournament in Duncan Keith. Dave Hodge, TSN Im going to go through the apparently easy route in the east and say thumbs up to the Presidents Trophy winning Boston Bruins. Sure, they dont win as often as they lose but in this case, this is the best home team in the NHL, lots of playoff experience, theyre obviously good defensively, good goaltending, good special teams and they are reasonably healthy. Then theres that Eastern Conference path to the Stanley Cup Final again, and I think that ends up being the bottom line for my reason to pick Boston. 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