LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook took the blame for the LA Clippers‘ four-game winning streak coming to a halt against the Orlando Magic and was already looking forward to redeeming himself in Portland on Sunday.
After the Clippers surrendered 39 points in the fourth quarter and were stunned 113-108 by the Magic at home, Westbrook pointed the finger at himself even though the Clippers (37-34) were playing without Kawhi Leonard (right knee injury management).
“This one’s on me honestly,” Westbrook said. “I could have been better. Started off good. But just in the second half, was terrible. And I got to do a better job of helping the guys out in the second half and the fourth quarter. So, it’s nothing anybody did. But honestly, it’s on me.”
With Leonard sitting out one game in a back-to-back as has been the team’s season-long plan with its star, Westbrook played 37 minutes and finished with 14 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal.
But he had six turnovers, and Magic point guard Markelle Fultz had a career-high 28 points to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Fultz made all four of the shots he took in the fourth and scored 12 of his points in the final 4:36.
The Clippers couldn’t stop Fultz or Wendell Carter Jr., who also scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Carter Jr. finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 3 steals, and hit four 3-pointers to help Orlando (29-42) erase an eight-point deficit in the final quarter.
“We didn’t finish rotations,” said Paul George, who scored 30 points. “Wendell Carter, he shot it well, but then on some of them, it was just we just didn’t finish rotations and we didn’t take his shot-making serious.”
George said he isn’t worried about Westbrook’s shooting. Westbrook shot 5-for-14 overall and missed all three of his 3-point attempts on Saturday. In his past seven games, Westbrook is shooting just 4-for-22 from behind the arc.
“He’s a professional,” George said of Westbrook, who also missed three free throws in the fourth quarter. “He’s a veteran. Top 75 player. He’s going to get through it. He knows to stay confident, he knows that we trust him and got his back, that he’s going to stay in attack mode. I don’t ever worry about Russ’ shooting. I just know what he brings and his value to the team. And that is bigger than anything.
“He just does so much other stuff that I don’t care. He plays hard and that’s a guy that I want to roll with.”
Westbrook was already looking forward to facing the Blazers and Damian Lillard before the Clippers headed to the airport to fly to Portland.
“I can’t wait to play tomorrow after the s— I did [today],” Westbrook said.
The point guard hopes to create more 3-point opportunities for the Clippers, who missed 16 of 22 attempts from behind the arc.
“That’s more on me,” Westbrook said. “My job is to be able to penetrate and get guys open shots, and get them open 3s, and I didn’t do a good enough job of that. Make sure I’ll be better at that tomorrow.”