The Houston Rockets saw a key piece return to their lineup in the team's blowout Game 5 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to take a 3-2 series lead.
TAKEAWAYS: Harden, Rockets cruise to Game 5 win
All-Star guard Russell Westbrook was back in action for the first time over two weeks after missing the Rockets' past six games with a quad injury. The starting point guard has only appeared in three of the team's 12 games since joining the Orlando bubble, but after a strong couple days of practice, he was ready to retake the floor under a minutes restriction.
How did Westbrook look in his return? We have you covered with some insight below.
How did Russell Westbrook look in his first game back?
Prior to the start of the game, head coach Mike D'Antoni made it clear that the former MVP would only be available for "25 to 28 minutes" in Game 5. Due to the team's third-quarter run that blew the game open, he was able to keep Westbrook under that ballpark range, as he saw just 24 minutes in the contest.
Westbrook would get out to a slow start, only making two of his first eight shots of the game heading into halftime. He never quite found his touch in this small sample size of playing time, finishing the game with seven points shooting 3-for-13 (23.1%) from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc.
Despite the low scoring night, Westbrook still made his impact felt on the defensive end, on the glass and with his playmaking ability. He'd finish with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal with a plus-21 +/- to represent his influence in his first game back.
The Brodie still had moments of looking like his usual, explosive self, crashing the defensive glass to get out in transition with a full head of steam. Take a look at this one example that perfectly depicts the problem Westbrook presents to opposing defences.
Westbrook in transition just adds so much to Houston because of the attention he commands. Watch as he pushes, three OKC defenders locked in on him. Kick to Gordon who is able to attack a driving lane and finish. These plays have been missing. pic.twitter.com/0L7SeCNgDX- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) August 29, 2020
And then there were plays like this one below where Westbrook is simply just sizing up his matchup Danilo Gallinari but has the eyes of every player on the floor, finding a wide-open P.J. Tucker for 3.
Russ finding PJ for 3. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/HKKthcpUXr- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 29, 2020
He did so again to start the second half, commanding all of the defence's attention when posting up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The result: another open 3-pointer, this time for Robert Covington.
.@russwest44 ➡️ @Holla_At_Rob33 🔥 pic.twitter.com/bGj6jkQoJf- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 29, 2020
This is the type of attention and gravity that Russ brings to the game that Rockets shooters have been waiting for. Even in limited playing time with a lacklustre stat line, Westbrook found a way to make winning plays to give a much-needed boost to his team.
Houston will look to close out their series with the Thunder on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
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