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Serenity Now Russ is needed more than ever against the Heat

by Jenni Carlson Published: February 11, 2013

Serenity Now Russ is becoming a familiar face around these parts.

Will he stick around?

We'll know Thursday.

With apologies to the Utah Jazz, the Thunder's opponent on Tuesday night, everyone who follows the boys in blue is looking ahead to Valentine's Day. It's the night the Heat comes to town. It's an NBA Finals rematch and a possible NBA Finals preview.

It's also a referendum on Serenity Now Russ.

In the past week-plus, we've seen a new, calmer Russell Westbrook. We've seen a huge decline in scowling, growling and complaining. The Thunder point guard is controlling his emotions, and as a result, he's controlling games like never before.

Check out his averages in the Thunder's last five games: 23.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 3.2 steals, 2.6 turnovers.

He's also shooting 51.2 percent from the floor.

He's been so good of late that he was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

The Thunder has won four of the five games since Serenity Now Russ appeared on the scene, all of those victories coming by 20-plus points. Had it not been for a transcendent performance by Kyrie Irving — the night Serenity Now Russ was getting his legs under him — the Thunder would've won in Cleveland, too.

Serenity Now Russ is clearly the result of the tantrum that Westbrook threw against Memphis almost two weeks ago. He stormed off the court early in the third quarter, knocking over a chair and blowing off team personnel after an outburst at Thabo Sefolosha and a benching by Scott Brooks.

And it happened with the Thunder cruising.

It was as bizarre a scene as you'll see in the NBA.

He's been a different player since then. Maybe he was embarrassed by what happened. Maybe he had a come-to-Jesus meeting with the coaches. Maybe he has seen a healer. Whatever the answer, the results are obvious. He isn't barking at teammates. He isn't glaring at officials.

But now comes the ultimate test.

This Valentine's Night game against the Heat will push Serenity Now Russ like none of these other games have. Yes, there were tests against Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix. All three have guards who have challenged Westbrook in the past, but facing Darren Collison, Stephen Curry and Goran Dragic is nothing compared to going against LeBron James and Co.

Westbrook will be amped.

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