LOS ANGELES -- Russell Westbrook hit a key fourth-quarter jump shot to push the Los Angeles Lakers' lead from four to six in an eventual 108-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
He also had nine turnovers and shot 0-for-5 from 3, which helped allow the Wolves -- missing two of their stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell because of the league's health and safety protocols -- to hang around so late into the game to begin with.
When asked what the jump shot did for him, contributing in a big moment after not playing his best up to that point, Westbrook took umbrage with the question.
"I disagree," Westbrook said. "I disagree with the part that the game wasn't going my way."
Westbrook finished with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting overall, hit 6 of 8 free throws and also added 5 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal, which he implied were just as important as the misses or the miscues.
"My game, you know, is fine," he said. "My game is not predicated on shots or if I turn the ball over. Like, I miss some shots, that's part of the game. I'm allowed to miss shots. I can do that. Like any other player, I can do that. I can turn the ball over, too. I can do that. That's all a part of the game."
Westbrook, the only player in league history to average a triple-double in four different seasons in his career, went on to explain that statistics don't tell the story of what he brings to the table to help his team win.
"When you watch a basketball game and figure out what impact making the right plays, boxing out, rebounding, whatever that may be, making the right play, making the right reads, that's all about being a basketball player," he said.
As for the jumper he hit, a pull-up shot from 19 feet out that went in even though Minnesota's Anthony Edwards fouled him on the release and put L.A. up 99-93 with 4 minutes, 56 seconds remaining, Westbrook shrugged off any added significance to the score.
"And that shot, I mean, just a shot I work on every day," he said. "It didn't really do nothing for me, just that it's been there all night and I should have been taking it."
While Westbrook wouldn't accept the characterization that he struggled on Sunday, it was obvious to other members of his team.
"Had a tough night tonight," said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. "But he's improving and we're evolving offensively. So, the guys are in different spots, and some of that is the pieces moving around in that and it's not just him."
Indeed, the Lakers went with a centerless lineup, as they have recently, with LeBron James manning the middle. Despite being outrebounded 56-28 by the Wolves, Vogel never brought in either of his traditional bigs, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, off the bench.
L.A. is now 3-0 with James assuming the 5 spot, and Sunday's win brought the Lakers back to .500 at 19-19.
While James backed Westbrook by saying, "just his presence ... his presence on the floor helps us," he detailed how the point guard's turnovers affect the Lakers on both ends.
"He was kicking himself a lot tonight with his turnovers, especially in the first half," James said of Westbrook turning it over seven times before halftime. "Cleaned up in the second half, only had two in the second half, and it resulted in us being able to get shots. And when we get shots, we're a really good team. What has really hurt us this year is when we turn the ball over a lot, and not able to set our defense, where we're really good in half court, have teams run it out on us.
"So us being able to take care of the ball in the second half was key in us getting this win tonight. The ball is in his hands a lot, the ball is in my hands a lot, so it starts with the two of us being able to take care of the ball, and we did that."
Westbrook said he cut his second-half turnover total by "just making easy reads."
Carmelo Anthony was another one of Westbrook's teammates to take a delicate approach when describing how the former league MVP is playing.
"I don't think we have to be on him about what he does out there on the basketball court, the turnovers or anything like that, because he beats himself up about it anyways," Anthony said. "We're just there to support him, let him figure it out, and we'll be right by his side."