In the end, the Oklahoma City Thunder asked Russell Westbrook for one more big shot.
In the end, the Thunder asked Westbrook to lift them one more time as he did all game, as he especially did in the tense, tight fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round playoffs against the Lakers.
In the end, with time not on his side, with 0.5 of a second left in the game, Westbrook was unable to deliver the big moment, his three-pointer from the corner near the Lakers’ bench hitting the rim and falling short.
Westbrook dropped his head and walked away, the Thunder falling, 95-94, Friday night at the Ford Center.
Oklahoma City took the Lakers to six games but lost the best-of-seven series, 4-2.
Westbrook scored 21 points, handed out nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and didn’t have a turnover in 41 minutes 42 seconds.
He was seven for 20 from the field, but often Westbrook was forced to take shots with the 24-second clock running down because his teammates shied away from the ball.
“I just tried to assert myself,” Westbrook said. “I just tried to come out and be aggressive. I tried to get in the lane and kick it out to open guys and tried to get opportunities and attacking them in transition.
“I just tried to get us into our offense and get guys open shots.”
He may have been just three for nine in the fourth quarter, but the eight points Westbrook scored came at a time when the Thunder needed them the most.
Westbrook stepped into a three-pointer with 6:21 left, pulling his Thunder team to within 86-82, forcing Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to call a timeout.
Westbrook’s jumper with 3:39 left cut the Thunder’s deficit to 91-89.
He wasn’t done.
Westbrook followed his own missed shot, got the rebound and scored while being fouled by Lamar Odom. Westbrook made the free throw to give the Thunder a 92-91 lead with 3:04 left.
Westbrook was on Kobe Bryant when he missed a jumper that could have given the Lakers the lead.
Pau Gasol tipped in the missed shot with 0.5 of a second left for a 95-94 Lakers lead.
The Thunder had one last opportunity and turned to Westbrook.
But he was unable to make the difficult shot.
“First of all, I was trying to go for the lob,” Westbrook said. “But I just happened to try to run to the ball before we got a five-second [violation] and throw it towards the rim, try to get it as close as possible. But it didn’t go in.”
Westbrook had been such a problem in the first four games for the Lakers that Bryant switched over to the 6-3 guard in the last two games.
Westbrook was not the same player in Game 5, scoring 15 points, missing nine of his 13 shots, turning the ball over eight times.
Westbrook, a 21-year-old second-year player from UCLA, didn’t let that slow him in Game 6.
“If Westbrook can continue to shoot like that the rest of his career, he’s going to be a problem,” Ron Artest said. “I mean a big problem.”
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