Russell Westbrook barreled down the lane, his focus on the rebound in his sights instead of the behemoths in his way.
He launched himself off the hardwood and went horizontal. Like Superman.
He snagged the ball, then hit Perry Jones for a turnaround jumper.
And in that short sequence Thursday night at The Peake, you knew there was nothing to worry about. Not to worry about Westbrook's thrice operated on knee. Not to worry about the combustible point guard being reintegrated into the hottest team in basketball.
Things are going to be just fine.
Oh, they were less-than-fine Thursday night for the Thunder. The Heat came to town and reminded everyone that it is the two-time defending champion.
Heat 103, Thunder 81.
But LeBron and Co. dominated from start to finish because the Thunder turned it over 20 times. And hit only two of 20 shots from deep. And failed to win 50-50 balls.
The problem wasn't Westbrook.
He had 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Not stellar but pretty darn solid after missing two months.
The Thunder could've used more of Westbrook.
The Thunder will limit his playing time for awhile. Against the Heat, he said he was only supposed to play 25 or 26 minutes, and he ended up playing 23 minutes, 53 seconds.
Another six or eight minutes sure could've helped the Thunder.
But the restriction on his minutes is the best thing for Westbrook, who said after the game that his knee was great, and in the long term, what's best for Westbrook is best for the Thunder. We were reminded of that in stretches Thursday night.
One of those times came late in the first half when the Thunder was clawing back into a game that the Heat was dominating. Westbrook went to the free-throw line on back-to-back possessions when he drove to the basket, forced the issue and drew the foul.
Then came another drive on a nasty crossover move that left Dwyane Wade in the dust in transition.
Then another trip to the free-throw line.
Then a dunk in transition.
Westbrook scored nine consecutive points to end the half for the Thunder. He outscored the Heat 9-4 in the last two minutes of the half.
Granted, the night had its bumps. Four turnovers. Eight missed shots. No 3-pointers. Still, it sure was nice to see Westbrook on the floor in his uniform, not on the bench in his suit and dress shoes.
“I'm happy that he's back,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I'm excited for the opportunity for our team to continue to improve and get better these next 26 games.”
All along, Westbrook was expected to return after the All-Star break, but the exact game was unknown.
“Whenever I felt like I was a hundred percent,” Westbrook said, “was when I was going to come back.”
And he says he's a hundred percent even though the debate about his availability raged these past few days. Kevin Durant said Westbrook was coming back during All-Star Weekend, then backtracked and said he spoke too soon. Brooks said Westbrook practiced Wednesday but that the team would wait and see how he was Thursday. Westbrook, though, had no doubt that Thursday would be the day.
There is still rehabilitation to be done on the knee. Make it stronger. Make him surer. Frankly, Westbrook wants to be better faster than he was after his last surgery.
“Find a way to catch my rhythm quicker,” he said.
Westbrook took a bit to round into form last time. But once he did, he was a sight to behold. Nearly unstoppable. He was almost averaging a triple double and had a triple double on Christmas Day against the Knicks.
The next day, he had surgery.
It was a total bummer — to fans, to teammates, even to Westbrook.
“It was tough,” he said. “Obviously, I wanted to keep playing, but I have to listen to my body. It was a tough decision for me, but it was for the best.
“I'm blessed to be back on the floor.”
He knows that there's no guarantee that everything will be fine from here on out. That's probably hard for Thunder fans — and front office folks — to stomach, but there are no for-sures with Westbrook's knee or any other body part that he flings around the court.
But from the looks of things against the Heat, he has come to terms with that.
He didn't play scared.
We even saw that familiar fire boil over late in the game when Westbrook picked up a technical foul protesting a call. And you know what? I'm not sure anyone minded that his emotions got the best of him.
That's how good it was to have him back.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni Carlson can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.