Russell Westbrook was the center of attention at the start of his Los Angeles Clippers debut, but all eyes were on the scoreboard by the end. Which took a while.
The former Los Angeles Lakers point guard's first minutes as a Clipper came in what turned out to be the second-highest scoring game in NBA history, a 176-175 double-overtime win for the Sacramento Kings. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the teams' combined 44 3-pointers was also the most in a game in NBA history.
The game finished 19 points short of the NBA record, a 186-184 triple-overtime win for the Detroit Pistons over the Denver Nuggets in 1983.
De'Aaron Fox turned out to be the point guard most worthy of attention, as he dropped 42 points and 12 assists, including what turned out to be the game-winning basket at the end of double OT.
— NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2023
Malik Monk also had a career-high 45 points and a 3-pointer to tie the game at the end of regulation.
Russell Westbrook posts 14 assists in Clippers debut
For all the talk about how Westbrook needs to change and what the Clippers could do differently with him, the former MVP looked pretty similar with his new team.
Starting at point guard, he finished with a line of 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting with 14 assists, seven turnovers and five rebounds, giving the Clippers the sort of distributor and paint-attacking presence they were likely hoping for when they picked him up after the Lakers traded him and the Utah Jazz bought him out.
It was only one game, but one stat showed how the Clippers might prove a better fit for Westbrook than the Lakers. Westbrook finished with eight assists on 3-pointers made, according to ESPN Stats & Info, his highest total in the last two seasons.
The Clippers got the full Russell Westbrook experience at the end of regulation. He delivered a clutch basket with 15 seconds left to put the team up three points, a much-needed contribution after nearly blowing a 147-136 lead with less than three minutes left.
Soon, however, the Kings had the ball with a chance to tie it and Westbrook appeared to lose Monk on defense, though there could also have been an error on the part of Norman Powell. Either way, the result was overtime.
The nonsense didn't end in overtime or double overtime. The Clippers built up a six-point lead in both periods, but ended up taking a very chaotic loss. Kawhi Leonard finished with 44 points on 16-of-22 shooting, while Paul George had 34 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Westbrook's 39 minutes played partially came at the expense of Terance Mann, the Clippers previous starter at point guard, who had only 18 minutes. The Clippers outscored the Kings by six points with Mann on the floor and by three with Westbrook.
After the game, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue conceded he should have played Mann more, but conceded he wanted to experiment with lineups featuring some of his team's recently acquired players.
Tyronn Lue on Terance Mann: "He was good. He should have played more."
"I know what T-Mann brings to the team, just trying to learn some things about the newer guys."
Lue called it a "learning experience for me, as well."
— 𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧 𝐑𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐨 (@FlyByKnite) February 25, 2023
It feels unfair to judge Westbrook as a Clipper in a game like Friday's, but he wasn't without his negatives. There were the seven turnovers, the six personal fouls and the defensive lapses. No player in the NBA is more defined by his negatives than Westbrook, and he will remain under the microscope for the foreseeable future.
The good news for the Clippers is it won't be nearly as hard to move on from him if he doesn't work out as it was for the Los Angeles Lakers. And if he does work out, well, that would make for quite a story.