Russell Westbrook threw a perfectly fine pass to Serge Ibaka, who bobbled it off his leg and watched it bounce out of bounds.
Then, the darnedest thing happened.
Westbrook didn't glare. Didn't growl. Didn't react negatively in the slightest.
In fact, he clapped.
He offered a little encouragement before running to the other end of the court.
On a night the Thunder demolished the Mavericks 112-91, Westbrook had as good a stat line as he's ever had as Oklahoma City's point guard. He had 24 points on 8 of 16 shooting, three rebounds, seven assists, three steals, three turnovers and zero attitude.
It was fabulous.
Those in the Thunder locker room tried to say that Westbrook played just like he always does — “I seen the regular Russ,” Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said. “Regular Russ” — but I promise you, this Russ was not the Russ we regularly see.
In fact, last we saw Westbrook on home hardwood he was having a meltdown. Only four nights before serenity-now Russ appeared, Westbrook stormed off the court early in the third quarter after a blowup at Thabo Sefolosha and a benching by Scott Brooks.
Had you landed in our fair city for the first time Monday night and learned that one of the Thunder players had gone postal in a game last week, you would never have guessed the offending player was Westbrook.
He was the most calm, cool, collected guy on the court.
“He was focused on getting other people the ball and scoring when he had a mismatch; that's when he's at his best,” said Thunder guard Kevin Martin, who came as close as any to saying Westbrook had a different look Monday night. “He can come down and score any time he wants, but getting the offense flowing, that's best for our team.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook: “He's one of our leaders, one of our captains. I thought he was good. He plays hard every time.”
Effort has never been a question with Westbrook. Keeping his head has been a whole other matter.
So, can this last with Westbrook?
I have no idea, but for one night, it wasn't stressful to watch him.
In fact, it was sort of weird. We're so used to seeing the scowling and the scoffing and the chip-on-the-shoulder wearing that it was a bit off-putting that there was none of it.
At one point, Westbrook committed a foul near the top of the key, and when he heard the whistle, he turned to the official and raised his hand.
Raised his hand.
That might be his first career foul acknowledgment.
Truth is, this Russ wasn't nearly as interesting as that other Russ. Not knowing what Westbrook will do at any given moment is part of the fun of watching this team.
But in case Westbrook is wondering whether this Russ can be as effective as that other Russ, the answer is a resounding yes. He was as dynamic as ever Monday night.
He made a steal in the backcourt and raced to the other end for a layup.
He hit a tough jumper with the shot clock winding down right before halftime.
He crossed over his dribble, drove to the basket and made a nifty up-and-under move while getting fouled early in the third quarter. It was as aggressive a move as you'll see in the league, and Westbrook made the tough sequence look easy.
“He came out, did his job, making shots, penetrating, playing defense, getting deflections, getting steals, just being a gnat,” Durant said. “He was swarming on the ball.”
Now, if that's what Durant meant when he said Westbrook was Regular Russ, well, OK. But I suspect that Durant and the rest of the Thunder might still be closing up ranks and defending their guy after that blowup last week.
It was all too fitting that part of Westbrook's attire after the game was a ballcap adorned with the words “MAINTAIN THE MYSTERY”.
“I think regardless of what may happen statswise, at the end of the day if you lose, it don't mean nothing,” Westbrook said. “The win is the biggest part.”
And this Russ can help the Thunder beat lots more teams than just the reeling Mavericks. I'm not sure how long he is going to stick around, but the Thunder has to hope it's an extended stay.
This Russ is not only good.
He's also good for this team.
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.