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Despite loss to Heat, it was good to see Russell Westbrook back in action

Westbrook had 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Not stellar numbers but pretty darn solid after missing two months.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 20, 2014

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.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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