Less than halfway through the first quarter, Paul picked up foul No. 2 and had to go to the bench.
“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said, “but you get two bad fouls early in the game … it makes it that much tougher.”
It was particularly tough on Paul’s replacement, Darren Collison. He’s even more slight than Paul, and Westbrook continued his physical ways.
He took Collison to the basket time and again. Sometimes, Westbrook got his own shot. Sometimes, he got great shots for his own teammates.
“My job is to find a way to get into the paint,” Westbrook said. “I thought that was the best way to us my height, to use my size.”
By the time Paul came back in the game at the start of the second quarter, Westbrook had already scored 10 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished three assists. He was rolling, and once a train like that is barreling down the tracks, it’s hard to stop.
That was one of the biggest problems that the Thunder had with Paul in Game 1. He’s not known as a spectacular outside shooter, but leave him open, and he’ll shoot. He did that a couple times, and when the shots fell, he got rhythm and confidence. After that, even when the Thunder played good defense on him, there was no stopping him.
Same went for Westbrook on Wednesday night.
“Westbrook, he gets criticized a lot, but I don’t know why,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “The dude plays hard.”
Tuesday afternoon, Durant said just about the same thing during his MVP acceptance speech. He gushed about Westbrook, saying that the point guard would “run through a wall for me.”
Westbrook did just that and then some Wednesday night.
If Westbrook can win the point guard battle a few more times like this, the Thunder will be tough to beat. In this series. In any series.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.