PHOENIX SUNS

Kevin Durant, Chris Paul push back at criticism of Russell Westbrook

Apr 22, 2023, 7:09 PM | Updated: 7:37 pm

Los Angeles Clippers Russell Westbrook...

Russell Westbrook #0 of the LA Clippers reacts as he waits for the start of play during a 112-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena on April 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Some players are polarizing in the NBA. You either love them or hate them. No in-between.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook is a prime example of one of those players given his volatile play style despite being the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles with 198.

He’s also only the second player in league history after Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double during the regular season.

But Westbrook has a couple of Suns in his corner in Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, who lauded the 2016-17 MVP following Phoenix’s 112-100 win over the Clippers in Game 4 on Saturday.

“People are going to always criticize when you’re successful and doing your thing for this long,” Durant told reporters. “Somebody is always going to find something they don’t like about you. But Russ has been resilient his whole life. He comes to work, doesn’t say much and just comes to hoop.

“When he retires, people are really going to tell the truth about how they feel about his game. Right now a fun thing to do is to make a joke out of Russ. The way he’s been playing since he got with the Clippers is showing everybody who he really is.”

Durant and Westbrook spent eight years together as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-16 before Durant left to join the Golden State Warriors.

Paul, who was traded from the Houston Rockets to OKC as part of a package for Westbrook in 2019, defended his friend as well.

“I feel like the only people to do that too is the people who don’t know basketball and don’t know what it’s like to compete,” Paul told reporters. “Russ is one of my closest friends.

“People that do that, talk crazy, probably wish they could be in that situation.”

The trio all had phenomenal performances on Saturday as the Suns took a commanding 3-1 series lead in the first-round playoff series.

Westbrook had a game-high 37 points — his second 30-plus game in a row — on 17-of-29 shooting, including going 3-for-6 from three-point range.

Meanwhile, Durant led Phoenix with 31 points for his first 30-point playoff game in a Suns uniform on 9-of-17 shooting, which featured a 3-for-4 from deep and a 10-of-11 clip at the free-throw line. He also had 11 rebounds and six assists in 45 minutes played.

Paul did most of his damage in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the final 12 minutes, including this absurd baseline fadeaway jumper:

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