Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook shows a flash of maturation

The untold story in the aftermath of the Thunder's 105-102 win over Houston in Game 2 on Wednesday night was how Westbrook, a player many jump to brand a hothead, kept his cool under playoff pressure and at the peak of his personal frustration.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 25, 2013

Making matters worse, Westbrook started jawing with Rockets reserve Francisco Garcia, who stood from the bench to bark at Westbrook on the court. It was in that moment, 47 game-time seconds after the collision with Beverley, that Thabo Sefolosha strolled over to Westbrook while James Harden shot a pair of foul shots and appeared to attempt to calm Westbrook down.

Didn't work.

Just 44 seconds later, Beverley bumped Westbrook to the ground while defending an inbounds pass. When Beverley extended a hand to help him up, Westbrook refused and swatted his hand away.

Two minutes later, Westbrook hoisted a transition 3-pointer.

Fourteen seconds after that, Westbrook raised his forearm while trying to clear space on a fast break and made contact with Beverley's upper body. Though Beverley sold the contact, it was Westbrook's third foul.

It couldn't have come at a better time, for Westbrook or the Thunder, which was nursing a one-point lead. The call forced Westbrook to sit the remaining 1:53 of the first half. It allowed him to cool off.

The start of the second half seemed to start off with more of the same. Westbrook took the Thunder's first two shots, one good and one bad.

But that's when things turned.

Instead of throwing up another shot despite having Beverley off balance after a simple crossover and shot fake, Westbrook calmly hit a cutting Sefolosha for a backdoor layup. It gave the Thunder a 61-56 lead with 9:36 left in the third and proved Westbrook had regained his poise.

A minute and a half later, Westbrook backed down Beverley and drew a foul after Beverley reached around his body. With heavy contact at the end of the play, Beverley hit the floor. Westbrook also lost his balance but simply hurdled Beverley and confidently walked away, as if he was in complete control while Beverley picked himself off the floor.

The ensuing inbounds pass went right back to Westbrook in the post. As Westbrook went into his move, backing Beverley down, Beverley tried to be physical. Too physical. He was called for his fourth foul, forcing him to sit for the next three minutes, 44 seconds.

Twenty-three seconds after Beverley returned, Westbrook used a Kendrick Perkins screen to get to the basket, convert a layup and get a three-point play opportunity.

It bumped the Thunder's lead to 11 and went down as the defining moment of Westbrook's maturation.

At that point, Westbrook had won.

He had gotten the best of Beverley and finally broke free from his inner demons.



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