Russell Westbrook made it clear early that Game 2 was going to be different.
On the first possession of the night, he snagged a steal, then in the process of gathering the ball and heading up court, he ran counterpart Chris Paul into an official. It was whistled a foul on Paul. Then, Westbrook got an offensive rebound and drew a foul on Blake Griffin. Then, he dished an assist to Kevin Durant.
The game was less than a minute old, but the Thunder point guard was already filling the stat sheet.
Setting the tone, too.
“I think Russell probably played harder than all of us combined,” Paul said. “He was all over the place.”
On a night when the Thunder needed to win on home hardwood and even up this Western Conference semifinal – and did just that with a 112-101 victory -- Westbrook made sure that this series turned around. He scored. He rebounded. He assisted. He defended. He hounded.
In the process, Westbrook notched his third triple-double of these playoffs.
No other player has even one triple-double in this postseason.
Roll that around in your head a minute. Westbrook 3, rest of the NBA 0.
His triple-double numbers: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. He became the fifth player in the last 25 seasons with three or more triple-doubles in one postseason. The others: Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo.
Westbrook added three steals and plenty of defensive headaches for the Clippers. What’s more, Westbrook contained Paul, who managed only 17 points and 11 assists. Maybe that seems like a lot, but compared to what he did in Game 1, the damage was minimal.
Two nights after Paul dominated this matchup with eight three-pointers, 32 points and a career night, Westbrook showed that he wasn’t going to back down. Yes, Paul is great. Sure, he might be the best point guard on the planet.
Then again, maybe not.
The point guard battle royale is back on.
And it is because Westbrook went right at Paul. He drew that foul on the opening possession. Then, he just kept coming. He crashed the boards. He looked for contact. He drove to the basket. For as good as Paul is, he’s more jitterbug than bruiser, and with Westbrooks height and size advantage, he used that to his advantage.