Russell Westbrook played a sensational game in Oklahoma City’s 96-91 season-ending loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
But it was the superstar’s actions while leaving the court at halftime and after the game that drew the most attention, as Westbrook twice confronted fans and had to be restrained by security.
The second time, as he left the court after the Jazz’s series-clinching Game 6 victory, he took a swipe at a fan’s cellphone but was unsuccessful in knocking it out of his hands.
Westbrook, who scored 46 points on 18 of 43 shooting, spewed more venom at Jazz fans in the postgame news conference.
“Uh, I didn’t confront the fans. The fans confronted me,” he said when asked about the incidents. “Here in Utah, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. They are truly disrespectful, talking about your families, your kids. It is a disrespect to the game and I think it is something that needs to be brought up.”
Westbrook gave terse, one-sentence answers to most of the questions, but on this particular one he wasn’t finished.
“I am tired of just going out and playing and letting the fans just say what the hell they want to say,” he continued. “I am not with that. Because if I was on the street, they wouldn’t come up and say anything. I don’t play that s---. So I just think they are disrespectful and they can do whatever they want to do … especially here in Utah.”
Westbrook had 15 points on 7 of 15 shooting in the first half as the game was tied at 41 at halftime, when a bearded Jazz fan apparently said enough to get him to stop and retort.
After the game, as confetti dropped from the ceiling on the sellout crowd of 18,306, a different fan stuck a cellphone in the star’s face, then Westbrook made the swipe.
While Westbrook did all he could to prolong Oklahoma City’s season, the other two-thirds of the Thunder’s Big Three — Carmelo Anthony and Paul George — did not. George was a putrid 2 of 16 from the field, including 0 of 6 from 3-point range, and finished with five points.
“We weren’t getting the same calls we got in … Game 5,” George said, recalling the Thunder’s 107-99 win in Oklahoma City that sent the series back to Utah.
With the Thunder trailing 94-91, George tried to draw a foul on Rudy Gobert as he hefted up a 29-foot 3-pointer, but the whistle never came. George threw his arms in the air to protest the noncall, and Westbrook said a foul should have been called.
Referee Ron Garretson told a pool reporter after the game that Gobert didn’t foul George.
“Rudy Gobert jumped to the right of Paul George. Our determination was Rudy would not have made contact with Paul had [Paul] not jumped sideways into Gobert’s legal space. We determined this to be a noncall,” Garretson said.
Anthony played 25 minutes and had a quiet seven points on 3 of 7 shooting.
“At times, I thought we took some early, quick, long shots that we didn’t necessarily need to [take],” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got good looks coming down the stretch, the last minute of the game. I think we had four pretty good open threes, I think to tie the game, and then that last possession we got the ball back.”