Westbrook will want to beat the Heat badly.
That'll be amplified by the way he played when these teams played on Christmas Day. Westbrook had that crazy-eyed, out-of-control look. Drives to the basket resulted in ugly shots or uglier turnovers on several occasions. He needed 19 shots to score 21 points. He managed only three assists while committing five turnovers.
And his off day wasn't confined to the offensive end of the floor. A couple of times, Dwyane Wade broke completely free when Westbrook was guarding him.
Westbrook's out-of-sync day came to a head on the Thunder's final possession of the game. With the team trailing by three, Westbrook somehow managed to track down a Kevin Durant miss — there are few guys in the league who could've swooped in and made the play he did to get that rebound — and then, he shot a three. No harm in that. But he shot like he was trying to draw contact instead of trying to make it. He extended his arms awkwardly and kicked his leg wildly.
Not his normal motion.
When he was knocked down but got no call — replays confirmed that Wade hit him on the wrist — he hollered an expletive, pounded a scorer's table and drew a technical.
Westbrook just wasn't under control during that final sequence. And while you can say that was just one play, staying under control isn't optional for Westbrook. It's something he has to do all of the time.
That's why this game Thursday against the Heat is such a big one for Westbrook. He needs to play better against these guys. He needs to walk off the floor feeling good and have something to build on should these teams meet again in The Finals.
Serenity Now Russ is going to be tested like never before.
Will he survive?
We're about to find out.
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.