The best player for the Houston Rockets in Game 1 against the Thunder didn't have a beard or a chic catchphrase that encapsulates his meteoric rise.
But what Patrick Beverley did have was a Band-Aid, a two-inch bandage that stretched above his left eye and symbolically told the story of what the backup point guard is all about.
In his playoff debut, Beverley introduced himself to Oklahoma City on Sunday night. For Beverley, it was a statement game, and the Thunder heard his message loud and clear.
“I think it's apparent that he only knows one way to play the game,” said Thunder guard Derek Fisher. “That's to go hard, to play hard, to play with aggression and confidence. He impacted the game (Sunday) night.”
Beverley came off the bench and scored 11 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 28 minutes. He made two of Houston's eight 3-pointers, provided some pesky defense against Thunder point guards Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson (stripping both once) and thoroughly outplayed Rockets starting point guard Jeremy Lin, who looked like anything but the sensation that came to be known as “Linsanity.”
You could even argue Beverley was more effective at both ends than James Harden.
“After (we got) off to a good start,” Fisher said, “I thought his minutes in that first half allowed them to keep the game competitive. So I think he'll be a guy that we have to key on Wednesday night, to try and do a better job of slowing down his penetration. He's a good player, and we have to view him as that. He's made us aware, and we have to be ready for that Wednesday.”
In a game in which six Rockets players appeared in their first playoff contest, Beverley stood out by performing with extreme confidence and tremendous toughness that belied his modest status.
Beverley is a 2009 second-round pick who entered this series with a 41 career games on his resume. After bouncing around throughout Europe, from Ukraine to Greece to Russia, Beverley latched on with the Rockets in early January when he signed for the league minimum.
His big break came when the Rockets pulled the trigger on the six-player deadline-day deal with Sacramento that sent backup point guard Toney Douglas to the Kings.
“Patrick's been a really pleasant surprise,” said Houston coach Kevin McHale. “What you saw out of Patrick is kind of how he plays.”
Beverley's hustle and hard work led to that bandage above his left eye.
While playing similar suffocating defense on Phoenix guard Goran Dragic recently, the 24-year-old Beverley sustained a cut courtesy of a Dragic elbow. The gash required five stitches.
Beverley hasn't let it bother him.
“Patrick is a guy that's going to come out and play hard,” said Rockets forward Greg Smith. “He's an energy guy that's going to come out and give you everything he has. That's one thing that our team really loves about him. You know that he's going to fight for you.”