Russell Westbrook committed a turnover, then clunked a jumper, and the Oklahoma City Arena crowd grew restless only a couple minutes into Tuesday's game.
Not when the Thunder needed its point guard.
On a night when Oklahoma City's postseason hopes hung in the balance, Westbrook came up big. Those anxious early minutes became a distant memory by the final minutes of this playoff game.
Thunder 111, Grizzlies 102.
Westbrook was superb.
He scored 24 points, dished out six assists and played the type of controlled yet dynamic game that his team needed from him.
What's more, the NBA's most overanalyzed point guard wasn't the only Thunder point guard to have a big night.
Eric Maynor scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
If the Thunder can get this kind of play out of its point guards, it has a chance not only to win this Western Conference semifinal but also to still be playing in June.
No joke. These guys were that good Tuesday night.
After a couple early glitches, Westbrook was as good as he's been in these playoffs. It was fun watching him, not frustrating like it has been at times.
He played like you expect an All-Star to play in a big game.
“Of course he did,” Maynor said. “Russ has been playing good for us all year ... ”
He glanced sideways at yours truly.
“ ... no matter what people say.”
I admit it — I wrote Tuesday that Westbrook hasn't been playing all that well, and I stand by that. Until Tuesday night, he had been suspect in the postseason.
At least one person thought I was too tough on Westbrook.
The Memphis coach talked to the media before the game, and I was part of the group that gathered around him. After he'd finished and I'd walked away, he asked the stragglers if I was the gal who'd written about Westbrook in Tuesday's paper.
Told that I was, he said I'd been pretty hard on Westbrook.
Maybe, but the thing is that we've seen how unbelievably good Westbrook can be. We've seen the potential. We've seen the possibility.
That makes it tough to stomach Westbrook's off nights.
And hey, he wasn't perfect Tuesday. He missed a breakaway dunk in the fourth quarter. He committed three turnovers in the first quarter. But after those early miscues, he relaxed. He calmed down. He chilled out. He had just one turnover the rest of the game.
Against playoff pressure, that's no small task.
“We always try to take care off the basketball,” Maynor said, “and he did a good job of that during crunchtime.”
No doubt about that.
“Russell was good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought he controlled the game very well.
“Eric was good. It's not an easy thing to do, to come in and make an impact as a backup point guard, but he has been like that all year. I never have to worry about him. I just always know he's going to give me everything he has.”
Maynor gave that and then some Tuesday. Most nights, he's solid, but this was a night when he turned it up a notch.
“He was making his shots,” Brooks said. “He's been working on it.”
Along with Daequan Cook, Maynor and Westbrook do shooting drills every day. They play games. They compete. They talk smack.
“And it's every morning,” Maynor said, “whether it's at home or on the road.”
It's paying off.
If Westbrook and Maynor can replicate what they did Tuesday night, this team will be tough to beat. And I'm not even talking about scoring or shooting. I'm talking about being solid.
If they play that way, the points and the assists will come like they did Tuesday night.
If they play that way, the Thunder will have a lot of games left in these playoffs.