Russell Westbrook snagged the loose ball and heaved it toward the goal in the final frantic seconds at Denver.
The shot never got above his waist.
Can you say karma?
On Sunday night when the Thunder point guard became Public Enemy No. 1 in the Mile High City, he swatted away not one but two halfcourt shot attempts by ... wait for it ... the Nuggets' mascot.
Yes, the mascot.
And I don't get the feeling like Westbrook regrets it in the least. He's embarking on a West Coast swing that will pit him against Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Isaiah Thomas and Steve Nash. Here's betting a little extra mojo will come in handy, even at the expense of a giant stuffed animal.
Let me set the scene.
During each Nuggets home game, SuperMascot Rocky shoots backward halfcourt shots during one fourth-quarter timeout. Thunder mascot Rumble has been known to attempt — and make — a few of those shots. The only difference is that when Rocky makes one of his shots, Nuggets fans in attendance receive a free order of queso from fast-food Mexican chain Qdoba.
Apparently, that promotion has become the most popular timeout bit that the Nuggets do.
I mean, who doesn't love free cheese?
Back to Sunday night.
Rocky attempted and missed several backward halfcourt shots, and he only had time for one more. The shot looked to be going in when Westbrook, who'd just broken the Thunder huddle, came out of nowhere, jumped in front of the rim and grabbed the ball.
Clearly, it was on the way down.
The Denver fans went ballistic. They booed Westbrook then and pretty much every time he touched the ball afterward.
He goaltended Rocky a second time.
Yep, after the mascot got that first shot thwarted, he went out there for a re-do. And sure as anything, Westbrook broke out of the huddle as the timeout ended, jumped in front of the rim and grabbed the ball.
The only difference the second time — he hucked the ball into the stands.
And flashed an evil smile.
And exchanged words with some Nuggets fans.
As our buddy Ben Hochman, Nuggets beat writer at the Denver Post, wrote of Westbrook, “He's one of those guys you either hate or you hate.” It's hard to argue that Westbrook has become one of the most detested players in the league. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He struts around the court. He does things that no one else has even thought of attempting. (See, blocking a mascot's shot.) And that's just how Thunder fans like him.
The whole thing gets under everyone else's skin, but it works great for Westbrook.
Look at what he did after goaltending Rocky late in the fourth quarter. He scored or assisted on 10 of the Thunder's last 13 points of regulation. Without him, there's no way the Thunder could've tied the game and forced overtime.
Then, of course, he had the 3-point attempt at the end of regulation.
Who didn't see the block of that shot coming?
That OKC-Denver rivalry looks to be heating up again. The first-round playoff series when George Karl called Scott Brooks cocky and the Nuggets complained all the way to elimination seems so long ago. But now with Westbrook's antics, the fire has been stoked.
A rivalry with Denver will suffice until the Kings move to Seattle, the Sonics begin anew and the Thunder has a rival like no other.
Hey, Russ, you've got a year or so to figure out what you're going to do to Squatch.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.