In the second round of last year's Western Conference playoffs, when Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace returned from a seven-game suspension for throwing a vicious elbow across the face of OKC sixth man James Harden, Thunder fans booed like they've never booed before at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But when OKC hosts Houston in Game 5 on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., the boo decibels likely will far exceed those hurled at MWP when Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley is introduced during pregame and at every available sequence thereafter.
It was Beverley who caused Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook to tear the lateral meniscus in his right knee of during the second quarter of Game 2, which resulted in the three-time All-Star undergoing season-ending knee surgery on Saturday morning in Vail, Colo.
Beverley tried to steal the ball by lunging in front of Westbrook as OKC was calling timeout. The left side of Beverley's hip collided with Westbrook's right knee.
In the 713 area code, it's been called a “freak accident” and simply part of the game.
In the 405 area code, Beverley's act is widely being considered as a “cheap shot.”
Thunder fans consider Beverley's malfeasance to be far more egregious than what MWP did.
Harden was sidelined the last two games of the regular season with a concussion, but was able to return for the postseason.
However, Westbrook has been sidelined the remainder of the season, which has severely damaged the Thunder's quest for this year's NBA title.
Thunder fans have booing versatility. In addition to booing the officials and MWP, local fans have even booed this season against Harden, the man they passionately endorsed for three seasons before he was traded to Houston Oct. 27.
Responses from Houston players to the Houston Chronicle when asked what kind of reception they anticipate for Beverley on Wednesday night:
“ ‘Booooo.' He's definitely going to get booed, but he blocks all that out and just plays hard.” – Harden
“Patrick, I'm sure they'll cheer him really loud. They love him there. No, I'm sure he'll get booed every time he touches the ball, but that's part of it. That's what makes it so fun and exciting, how passionate the fans are. And I'm sure he won't be bothered by it.” – forward Chandler Parsons
“In the famous words of (Hall of Fame center) Bill Walton, ‘If they're cheering you in the opposing gym, you're probably doing something wrong.' I don't think they'll be cheering him, so he must be doing something right.” – coach Kevin McHale
“It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to all the boos and stuff. I understand the crowd is going to be amped up, and I hope that is going to get us that more focused. Every time you catch the ball you're going to hear boos, so at least I get to release some of the pressure off (Harden).” – Beverley
Though Westbrook is recuperating in his Oklahoma City home, he is not expected to make an appearance and sit behind the team bench at Game 5, a la Kobe Bryant, who did so on Sunday when the Lakers were eliminated at Staples Center in Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs.
“You know what? I did not even ask,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook making an appearance. “Spent some time with him (Tuesday) morning. I don't know. I'll tweet it out later on today. I really don't know.”
Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant scored 38 points on 16 field-goal attempts in Game 4, sinking 13 of 15 free throws and adding eight rebounds and six assists, but also committing seven turnovers.
“KD had such an efficient night,” McHale told the Chronicle. “And he is a unique guy in the fact that if you do run at him (defensively), he is willing to pass. He only had 16 shot attempts. Granted, he had a bunch of free throws, but who are we willing to say we want to shoot and who are we not willing to have shoot it on the perimeter? Because we get that mixed up sometimes.”
McHale on Durant, who had 38 points on 16 field-goal attempts in Game 4: “He was really efficient, but he's a helluva basketball player. I guess the good news is we limited him to 16 shot attempts. The bad news is he made 12 of them.”