DALLAS – At crunch time in Game 1 on Tuesday night, Russell Westbrook was missing shots.
At crunch time in Game 2 on Thursday night, he was missing in action.
Despite logging 0:00 in the final quarter, Westbrook insisted he couldn't have been happier after the Oklahoma City Thunder captured home-court advantage with a 106-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks before a hushed sellout crowd of 21,051 inside the American Airlines Center.
"When we're winning, I'm good," Westbrook said.
Usually when Westbrook sits the entire fourth quarter, the Thunder is in the middle of a blowout. On this night, the circumstances were vastly different.
OKC led 77-76 after the third period in the Western Conference Finals against a team that was 9-2 in the playoffs to date and 7-0 inside its home arena.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks opted to stick with backup point guard Eric Maynor, who had replaced Westbrook with 28 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"We were making shots," Brooks explained. "I didn't want to mess with the rhythm. I usually will sub him (Westbrook) in. Very rarely have I ever done that since Russell has been here.
"The decision, really, was (because) Eric was playing well. It had nothing to do with Russell. Eric was playing good basketball, solid basketball for us. We were increasing the lead."
Even when the Thunder lead dwindled from 10 down to four with 1:03 remaining, Brooks stuck with Maynor.
"The temptation was there when they cut (the lead) to six and we had to call a timeout," Brooks admitted. "I believe in all of our guys. Some guys get more minutes than others, but they have to play hard and they do."
Asked how rewarding it was to have his coach show so much confidence it him at such a crucial time, Maynor shrugged it off. "Coach has confidence in all of us, not just me," Maynor said.
Maynor wound up playing 20 minutes. He finished with 13 points while shooting 5 for 9 from the field, 3 for 3 from the free-throw line and also had zero turnovers.
Westbrook played 28 minutes and had 18 points, four assists, three rebounds and four turnovers and also had several emotional outbursts on the court.
"Just frustrated with myself, the way I played. That's all," Westbrook said.
Asked to rate his performance up until the fourth quarter, Westbrook said, "It was fine. I'm not really worried about what I'm doing."
Several times in his interview session, Westbrook was asked if he had a problem with not being put back into the game.
"I'm just sitting there waiting to get my name called. We was winning, man," Westbrook said. "You all want to ask the same question and I'm going to give you all the same answer – 'We was winning.' "
Perhaps the best news in all this is Thunder All-Star forward and close friend Kevin Durant is now able to keep his house.
After Westbrook shot 3 for 15 during the 121-112 loss in Game 1, Durant said he would "bet his house" Westbrook wouldn't shoot 3 for 15 again.
Westbrook was 7 for 15 in Game 2.
Game 3 will be Saturday at 8 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena.
Yes, Westbrook will start.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.