As he slammed his hand upon the scorer's table, Russell Westbrook sent a cloud of powder high into the air.
No one was sure which would settle first, the remnants of the rosin or Westbrook's fury.
Ultimately, the dust subsided sooner, but the next 10 minutes became a pivotal moment in Westbrook's maturation.
The untold story in the aftermath of the Thunder's 105-102 win over Houston in Game 2 on Wednesday night was how Westbrook, a player many jump to brand a hothead, kept his cool under playoff pressure and at the peak of his personal frustration. Without its point guard keeping his emotions in check, the Thunder could be stuck in a series knotted at one game apiece rather than heading to Houston this weekend with a 2-0 lead.
But after pesky Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley bumped knees with Westbrook on a routine play midway through the second quarter, Westbrook, this time, refused to let his emotions get the best of him. Instead of storming off the court, Westbrook eventually shook it off and responded by scoring 20 points with three assists and four steals following the incident.
That a hobbled Westbrook remained in the game was no surprise. We know about his unmatched durability. He's played in 394 consecutive regular season games, the longest streak among active NBA players.
But what we witnessed Wednesday night was Westbrook redefine his unbreakable trait and show, perhaps for the first time, that he's becoming as unflappable as he is indestructible.
“During this time of the year, as a team we got one goal and we can't let nobody get in the way,” Westbrook said. “That's how I feel, and that's how I want my team to respond as well.”
Let's rewind to the five-minute mark of the second quarter.
Rockets forward Greg Smith had just grabbed one of Houston's 19 offensive rebounds and converted a putback with an uncontested one-handed dunk. It gave the Rockets a 42-41 lead, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks had seen enough.
As Westbrook advanced the ball past halfcourt, everyone knew a timeout was coming. Beverley, however, dove at Westbrook in an attempt to steal the ball. The momentum of the two caused a light collision and Westbrook got the worst of it.
Westbrook fell to the floor, clutching his right knee while wincing in obvious discomfort. He immediately popped up in anger but had to hop on his left leg as he turned toward Beverley before stopping at the scorer's table, where he demonstrated his disdain for what Beverley had done.
Following the timeout, Westbrook had that look in his eyes. That look we've seen so many times in the past. That look of revenge.
In the past, you never knew how that would turn out for Westbrook and the Thunder. And this time, it was close to heading in the wrong direction. Close to turning into one of Westbrook's highly publicized meltdown moments.
In the next three minutes, 41 seconds, Westbrook jacked up four shots. Two were quality looks and two seemed to stem from his desire for revenge, as Westbrook nearly turned the game into a personal battle with Beverley. Over that span, Westbrook also forced a drive into traffic, resulting in a jump ball, and was called for an offensive foul.
Making matters worse, Westbrook started jawing with Rockets reserve Francisco Garcia, who stood from the bench to bark at Westbrook on the court. It was in that moment, 47 game-time seconds after the collision with Beverley, that Thabo Sefolosha strolled over to Westbrook while James Harden shot a pair of foul shots and appeared to attempt to calm Westbrook down.
Just 44 seconds later, Beverley bumped Westbrook to the ground while defending an inbounds pass. When Beverley extended a hand to help him up, Westbrook refused and swatted his hand away.
Two minutes later, Westbrook hoisted a transition 3-pointer.
Fourteen seconds after that, Westbrook raised his forearm while trying to clear space on a fast break and made contact with Beverley's upper body. Though Beverley sold the contact, it was Westbrook's third foul.
It couldn't have come at a better time, for Westbrook or the Thunder, which was nursing a one-point lead. The call forced Westbrook to sit the remaining 1:53 of the first half. It allowed him to cool off.
The start of the second half seemed to start off with more of the same. Westbrook took the Thunder's first two shots, one good and one bad.
But that's when things turned.
Instead of throwing up another shot despite having Beverley off balance after a simple crossover and shot fake, Westbrook calmly hit a cutting Sefolosha for a backdoor layup. It gave the Thunder a 61-56 lead with 9:36 left in the third and proved Westbrook had regained his poise.
A minute and a half later, Westbrook backed down Beverley and drew a foul after Beverley reached around his body. With heavy contact at the end of the play, Beverley hit the floor. Westbrook also lost his balance but simply hurdled Beverley and confidently walked away, as if he was in complete control while Beverley picked himself off the floor.
The ensuing inbounds pass went right back to Westbrook in the post. As Westbrook went into his move, backing Beverley down, Beverley tried to be physical. Too physical. He was called for his fourth foul, forcing him to sit for the next three minutes, 44 seconds.
Twenty-three seconds after Beverley returned, Westbrook used a Kendrick Perkins screen to get to the basket, convert a layup and get a three-point play opportunity.
It bumped the Thunder's lead to 11 and went down as the defining moment of Westbrook's maturation.
At that point, Westbrook had won.
He had gotten the best of Beverley and finally broke free from his inner demons.