The Washington Wizards made a bad start to the season but star guard Russell Westbrook promised his teammates that they would make the playoffs. On Thursday, Westbrook delivered on his promise as he delivered a big performance against the Indiana Pacers in the play-in tournament, in a game that was deciding the No.
8 seed. Westbrook had 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists as the Wizards dominated the Pacers 142-115 to set up a first round meeting against the Philadelphiaa 76ers. "We were struggling and everybody was down on the outside and we had to figure out a way to knuckle up and make the playoffs," Westbrook said about his playoff promise to the team, per ESPN.
"Simple as that. I didn't care what happened in the previous games. ... We had to figure ourselves out, look at ourselves in the mirror, starting with myself. "I made it clear to the guys that we'll make it."
Westbrook bounced back
Two days earlier, Westbrook didn't have a good performance against the Boston Celtics and the Wizards ended up losing and failing to secure the No. 7 seed. "I was so pissed in my performance," Westbrook said.
"Just wasn't feeling the best when my team needed me the most. Everything happens for a reason. I knuckled down and took care of my body and made sure my mind was right coming into tonight and making sure my energy and effort was there and my team could follow me."
The Wizards dealt with adversity on several occasions during the regular season but still managed to make the playoffs. "We have done things, there's no template, there is no book that we could have read [on how to handle]," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
"We didn't know 90% of the things that we were doing because we were learning it on the fly. Not having practice, not having shootaround, being away from the team for 10 days, having seven guys basically miss three weeks in January and all the injuries on top of that."
Coach Brooks also recalled Westbrook delivering a passionate speech to his teammates earlier this season. "I don't even remember what game [it was], he gave a very passionate, very direct talk to the group," Brooks said.
"He was like, I am not going through this season and not making the playoffs. Not that he predicted it, but he said I am not going to let this happen and not make the playoffs. We are going to step up and fight for one another. "[It was] almost like, you guys better be ready for what is about to take place, and it turned around."