It served as a feel-good win that capped a 3-0 road trip and, for a time, took the Thunder’s mind off the status of its pivotal point guard.
“I was really proud of the guys for fighting this one out, because that could have been an emotional blow, depending on how guys handled it,” said Nick Collison. “But I thought we handled it well.”
Westbrook’s health, however, remains the most significant development, and until he takes the court again, concern will linger regarding the extent of his injury.
By the time reporters were allowed in the Thunder’s locker room, Westbrook was jovial, smiling, laughing and joking with teammates. He had a routine bag of ice wrapped around his right knee, and when his icing time was up, he stood and dressed with no problem before slipping on a tight black sleeve and a pair of black pants.
“I don’t expect to miss no time,” Westbrook said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”
The promising sight of Westbrook moving about so effortlessly was diminished by the memory of him playing the second half of Game 2 against the Rockets last season after tearing his lateral meniscus in the first half. It wasn’t until further tests revealed a day later that Westbrook would miss the remainder of the postseason, which sent the Thunder spiraling out of the playoffs and Westbrook into a long road of rehab that he still is navigating.
He missed 28 straight games from Dec. 27 through Feb. 13 because of swelling in the knee that wouldn’t subside. He’s been sidelined for 33 total, including three in which the Thunder held him out simply to rest the surgically-repaired knee.
Since returning to the lineup on Feb. 20, Westbrook has been on a minute restriction, as well as being limited to one game on back-to-back sets. He rejoined the lineup Friday after sitting out Thursday at Cleveland for one of those scheduled rests.
But even after a frightening scene that looked all-too familiar to last spring, the Thunder chose to remain positive. There was a feeling after the game that the team, more than anything, was being cautious by not bringing Westbrook back into the game.
“We’re confident,” said Durant. “We just got to believe that everything’s going to be all right.”