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Russell Westbrook came through when Thunder needed him the most

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 18, 2011 at 12:47 am •  Published: April 18, 2011

Russell Westbrook took the Thunder faithful on quite the ride Sunday night, a rickety rollercoaster that surely had you jumping for joy one minute and sinking in your seat the next.

Should we have expected anything different?

Before Westbrook lifted Oklahoma City to a 107-103 Game 1 win over Denver, the third-year point guard gave us all a reminder of why he was once the most questioned player in a Thunder uniform.

In the final 61/2 minutes, Westbrook seemed to lose it. All the poise and patience he displayed in the first half had disappeared. That impressive decision-making and at times dogged defense we saw throughout much of the first 42 minutes suddenly died.

Though Kevin Durant was as dialed in as we've ever seen him, scoring or assisting on 22 of 25 Thunder points during a near 12-minute stretch from the third quarter to the middle of the fourth, Westbrook made one of those head-scratching decisions to try to take over. What came next was a series of turnovers and missed shots.

Westbrook hit a 19-foot pull-up jumper that pushed the Thunder's lead to eight. For a time, it went south from there. He threw it away. Then he missed a jumper and a 3-point try on back-to-back trips. The Nuggets closed within 98-97.

After the Nuggets wrestled away the lead and went up 101-100, Westbrook missed another jumper before turning it over once more.

The ride dipped to its lowest point when Westbrook got himself in trouble on the right baseline and had to force up a shot. It rolled around the rim before Kendrick Perkins tapped in what appeared to be a goaltend that put the Thunder up 102-101. Officially, the miss made Westbrook 1-for-5 with two turnovers in the final period.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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