The Russell Westbrook Experiment Is Dooming the Houston Rockets’ Title Hopes

  • Russell Westbrook was always a questionable fit next to James Harden.
  • A month into the regular season, his influence has been just as debilitating as many feared.
  • The Rockets’ title hopes seem doomed as a result.

James Harden had just completed a filthy four-point play, giving the Houston Rockets a five-point lead over the LA Clippers with less than two minutes to play. One of the most highly anticipated games of the regular season was living up to the hype, with Harden out-dueling Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the road.

The Rockets aren’t as deep as the Clippers and their superstar tandem not as cohesive. But it didn’t matter, as Harden made a statement in front of a global television audience that his team would remain one to be reckoned with come playoff time.

But that show of dominance was wasted shortly thereafter, with LA storming back to earn a thrilling 122-119 victory as Houston’s offense sputtered in the game’s final moments.

Why? Russell Westbrook proved haplessly unable to make the opposition pay for forcing the ball from Harden’s hands.

Westbrook went 1-of-5 from the field in crunch time versus the Clippers, missing each of his last four shots. Just as debilitating was that he failed to make the Clippers pay for committing two defenders to Harden, a numbers game elite playmakers are counted on to win.

It’s not exactly surprising that Westbrook couldn’t take advantage of a defense exploiting his biggest weakness. Concerns about his fit next to Harden after the Rockets acquired him in exchange for Chris Paul were layered, but chief among them was his inability to make open jumpers.

Westbrook is shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game, numbers that would qualify as the worst three-point shooting effort of all time if extrapolated over the full season. He’s…

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