OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley meet again

COMMENTARY— The Thunder point guard faced off against the Rocket who injured his knee in last year’s playoffs. OKC got the last laugh this time, pulling out a 106-98 win.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 11, 2014


photo - Houston's Patrick Beverley (2) claps after fouling Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets at the  Chesapeake Energy Arena  in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Houston's Patrick Beverley (2) claps after fouling Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Patrick Beverley did the Thunder a solid.

The Rockets’ guard decided to embrace his villain status. Be the bad guy. Wear a mask even.

It worked — for the Thunder.

On the night that Beverley and Russell Westbrook stepped on the same court for the first time since Beverley ran into Westbrook in last year’s playoffs and set off a round of knee surgeries that has defined nearly a year for the Thunder, Beverley’s aggressive style backfired. It helped to energize an already pumped Westbrook and Co.

Thunder 106, Rockets 98.

After struggling since the All-Star break, the Thunder was snapped to attention by Beverley’s play. The boys in blue insisted after the game that they were already a motivated bunch — “We were mostly pumped up because we lost two in a row,” Kevin Durant said. “We never want to go three in a row” — but the spark supplied by Beverley sure didn’t hurt. The Thunder held the high-powered and red-hot Rockets under 100 points for the first time in two weeks and under 42 percent shooting for only the second time since the All-Star break.

And Westbrook turned in one of his best performances since returning from that third knee surgery.

His line: 24 points, four rebounds, seven assists, four steals and five turnovers, though he had none after halftime.

“He just went out there to play to win,” Durant said. “That’s how Russ always plays, with that edge, that intensity.”

But he doesn’t play a defender like Beverly every night. The guy is a pest. Not the biggest. Not the fastest. Still, he makes life miserable for guys around the league with his energy and effort.

Just ask Damian Lillard. The Portland point guard got into it with Beverly over the weekend, then sparred with him in the media.

Wearing a clear plastic mask to protect a recently broken nose, Beverley looked like he might spar for real with Westbrook a couple of times.

Less than halfway through the first quarter, Scott Brooks pointed at the hash mark near the Thunder bench to let Westbrook know that he wanted a timeout. Westbrook reached the hash and signaled for a timeout, but as he did, Beverley reached for the ball.

“That’s how I play against everybody,” he said.

It was the exact same spot where Beverley ran up on Westbrook as he called a timeout in last year’s playoffs. They collided, and Westbrook is still trying to get his knee right.

It was unreal to see a similar play on the exact same spot Tuesday night. Westbrook bowed up, Beverley stood his ground, and for a moment, fisticuffs seemed entirely possible. Beverley was called for a technical, but it did nothing to cool his heels.

A couple minutes later, the ball squirted loose near midcourt and Westbrook dove on the floor for it. He corralled it and cradled it, but from behind, Beverley reached around Westbrook’s shoulders and tried to get a jump ball. Whistles blew, but as Westbrook scrambled to his feet and started to turn toward Beverley, everyone at The Peake wondered if the referees would get there in time to separate them.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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