Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers came back from a big deficit to take down the New York Knicks at home in overtime, 122-115. A win is the win, but it's hard for the Lakers to emerge from the evening feeling good about their efforts. In a game where LeBron James and Anthony Davis suited up at more or less full health, Los Angeles still went down by 15 in the first half and gave up 42 points in the first quarter. It was a concerning outing for a team trying to turn their fortunes around to compete for a championship, even if it was an interconference game in February.
A large part of the reason the Lakers got off to such a slow start last night was, of course, Russell Westbrook. The bad version of Westbrook showed up for the matchup as he shot 1-of-7 with four turnovers for a total of five points and a plus-minus of -24 in the first half alone. The Lakers began their comeback when Westbrook hit the bench and he stayed there for much of the second half and didn't play a minute of overtime. Frank Vogel's decision to sit him (again) is the primary reason the Lakers were able to avoid an embarrassing home defeat to an average Knicks team.
The Westbrook problem is not a new one but things have gotten so bad that he's not only getting booed at home, the fans were loudly begging him not to shoot.
It is safe to say that things are getting dire for the Lakers. Westbrook did not seem to take getting benched well last month but it's the only way Los Angeles can win games at the clip required to be considered legitimate contenders.
On his good nights, Westbrook is still a useful player who can contribute to a winning effort. But his bad nights have gotten bad enough that his team has no chance unless he's taken out of the game entirely. And the bad is far more common than the good nowadays. The Lakers have to change something otherwise they're destined for a second consecutive early playoff exit.