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Russell Westbrook’s Clippers debut: Star guard shines as playmaker next to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

The fifth chapter of Russell Westbrook’s career began with a double loss for the Clippers to the Kings in a thriller on Friday night.

At the close of trading, Westbrook was sent to the Jazz by the Lakers in a three-team deal with the Timberwolves, officially ending his tenure with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. It was immediately clear that Westbrook would not fit for Utah and at one Contract buyouts awaited the freedom to cling to a team with championship ambitions.

When the Jazz reached a buyout with Westbrook during the All-Star hiatus, it paved the way for the nine-time All-Star to join the other Los Angeles team.

With a gap at point guard all season, Westbrook’s former Thunder teammate Paul George lobbied for the front office to sign the former MVP. At one point he signed with the team, head coach Ty Lue didn’t mince words when discussing Westbrook’s roleand put him straight into the starting XI.

Will Westbrook be the missing piece as LA tries to achieve its first championship in franchise history? The Sporting News delve deeper into his first game in a new uniform.

MORE: Why Westbrook is a low-risk bet for Clippers 2023 title boost

How did Russell Westbrook play in his Clippers debut?

Statistics line: 17 PTS (7-13 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 14 AST, 5 REB, 1 STL, 7 TO

The good

Westbrook joined Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Mason Plumlee in the starting lineup, sending Terance Mann – who did a great job as an interim point guard – back to the bench.

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Westbrook wasted no time in impressing as a playmaker, handing out some easy dimes of drives and pushing the pace to find open shooters in the fastbreak.

The Clippers put the ball in Westbrook’s hands and let him start the offense, making a multitude of runs Pick and roll looks like the player ranked 10th all-time for assists can take readings and create simple looks for his teammates.

they also briefly experimented with using him as a screener — something he didn’t want to do with the Lakers — to use Westbrook when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.

The Clippers immediately benefited from Westbrook’s passing presence as he hit the 10-assist mark midway through the third quarter.

Towards the end of the fourth quarter, Westbrook extended the Clippers’ lead with less than 20 seconds of play. He took rookie forward Keegan Murray out of dribbling and finished on the edge to put LA in three by 15.2 seconds.

He also knocked down his only 3-pointer in overtime at a massive point – his second clutch bucket of the night.

Westbrook finally fouled in double overtime when the Clippers lost 176-175 to the Kings in the second-biggest game in NBA history.

The bad

At this point, it’s no secret that Westbrook can’t shoot. He’s shooting 31.9 percent on midrange jumpers and 29.6 percent on 3s this season, according to NBA stats.

The Kings defended him as a non-shooter, either dropping wide from Westbrook or sending his defenseman to double-team Leonard or George to temporarily create some distance problems for the Clippers offense.

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Luckily for LA, it didn’t matter much as it buried a franchise record 26 3s at a 57.8 percent clip.

The potential spacing issue was well known when the Clippers signed Westbrook, but his debut gave us a taste of what it’s like on a new team. Compared to the Lakers, however, the Clippers have quite a number of perimeter shooters who can make up for Westbrook’s lack of threat from outside the paint. His new team doesn’t need him to score with so many offensive weapons.

The gap is something to keep in mind on nights when LA is playing a better defensive team than Sacramento (which is ranked 22nd in the NBA).

Clipper’s upcoming schedule

Four of the next five games of the season in LA will be televised nationally.

Date Opponent Time channel
February 26th at nuggets 22 O `clock ESPN
February 28th against timber wolves 22 O `clock TNT
2nd March at warriors 22 O `clock TNT
3 March at Kings 22 O `clock
5. March against grizzlies 22 O `clock ESPN

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