Westbrook’s focus on playoffs; thanks Kobe
Royce Young, NBA Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Barring a major swing on the final night of the season, Russell Westbrook is set to win his first scoring title.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder star said Wednesday he’s much more interested in something else.
“I never really thought I’d be winning anything close to a scoring title,” Westbrook said. “But I’d rather be in the playoffs than win the scoring title, to tell you the truth.”
Westbrook (28.0 points per game) leads the scoring title race over former teammate James Harden (27.5).
In order for Harden to surpass Westbrook, it would take a monumental gap in scoring. For example, if Westbrook went scoreless on Wednesday, the Houston Rockets guard would still need 35 points to pass him. If Westbrook scores 15, Harden would need 53.
The Thunder enter Wednesday tied in the standings with the Pelicans for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, but are at a disadvantage with New Orleans holding the tiebreaker.
The Thunder need to beat the Timberwolves and hope the Pelicans lose to the Spurs to qualify for their sixth consecutive postseason trip.
“We have no choice. It’s win or go home,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to go out and take care of our business. That’s all we can do is handle what we do.”
Westbrook scored a career-high 54 points Sunday against the Pacers, but drew some criticism after attempting 43 shots to get it. Kobe Bryant stood up for Westbrook on Twitter, defending the Thunder star by noting Michael Jordan also took 43 shots in an NBA Finals loss in 1993.
“That’s my guy, that’s my guy, that’s my guy,” Westbrook said. “Kobe’s a good friend of mine and being in L.A., I was able to watch him and see him become a Hall of Famer and one of the best players to play the game. It’s an honor to be able to see somebody like that, to be able to have your back and support you.”
If Westbrook does win the scoring title, that would be five out of the last six coming from a Thunder player (Kevin Durant has won four of the last five), and the first time since the 1952 and 1953 seasons (Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston with the Philadelphia Warriors) players on the same team have won back-to-back scoring titles.