OKLAHOMA CITY — After going 1-of-12 from 3-point range in a 105-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook returned to the court still in his full uniform after the game for a shooting session some two hours after the final buzzer.
Westbrook spoke with reporters after shooting on the court with a couple of team staffers rebounding for him, still in uniform and with a full sweat worked up. However, he wasn’t interested in explaining the motivation in getting extra shots up.
“I’d rather not talk about it, honestly. I do it a lot, but …” Westbrook said, stopping there.
It’s not entirely unusual for Westbrook to shoot after games, but typically it’s not back on the arena floor. He did it once before in Phoenix during the 2016-17 season following a rough game, but he’s been known to return to the Thunder’s practice facility sometimes for late-night postgame shooting.
Playing a night after a brilliant performance in a win against the Hornets, Westbrook struggled with his shot, hitting 6-of-23 from the floor and 3-of-7 from the line to go with the misfires from 3. In the fourth quarter as the Thunder mounted a comeback to cut a 25-point deficit to five, Westbrook went 0-of-5 in the final frame from 3 and 0-of-6 overall.
“I’ll look at the film and see and figure out how I can be better,” Westbrook said. “But each game, in a loss, I figure out a way to make sure that my guys are ready to play, and I come back and improve some part of my game and read the game.”
Asked about the quality of the 12 3-point attempts, Westbrook said, “Uh, what’d I just say?”
Despite the loss, the Thunder have won 12 of their past 15 while playing exceptional on the defensive end, and steadily improving offensively. Westbrook, though, seemed to take the loss hard, sitting at his locker in his uniform for about 90 minutes before going to the court to shoot for about 20 minutes.
“Russ wants to win, as we all do, but I get you guys sense that by the way the passion he plays at,” Paul George said. “Russ always wants to win. He’s going to take it hard, every loss. That’s just how he’s made up.”
George, who finished with 24 points on 8-of-21 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3, said he had no issue with Westbrook’s shot selection.
“Russ has the ability to take over a game down the stretch, but tonight those didn’t fall,” George said. “We’ve seen Russ get hot behind the 3-point line. He has a real good way of turning it on when you need him to.”
It was the second night of a back-to-back for the Thunder — and the Nuggets — but OKC came out flatter than Denver and struggled making open looks created off good ball movement. After those shots didn’t fall, the Thunder got away from their offense in the second quarter, taking lazy, contested jumpers after little passing. Not coincidentally, that’s when Denver built a 25-point lead. As a team, the Thunder shot just 35.9 percent, hit 9-of-39 from 3 and missed eight free throws.
“You miss shots you usually make, it’s fine. We made them the other night, but tonight we didn’t make ’em,” Westbrook said. “But for us, we’ve still got to defend. We’re not a team that leans on our offense and that’s the reason we’re the No. 1 defensive team in the league, because we defend at a high level … Regardless of missed or made shots, that’s a part of basketball — there are going to be nights you make shots, you may miss ’em. But you’ve got to defend.”
Westbrook finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his second triple-double of the season.