With the Thunder trailing 84-72 and 2:58 remaining in the third quarter Wednesday night, NBA official Scott Foster ruled OKC point guard Russell Westbrook had lost the ball out of bounds while driving to the basket against the Phoenix Suns.
With a stoppage in play, both teams headed to their benches for a media timeout. Westbrook instead lagged behind, animatedly pleaded his case with Foster and was slapped with a technical foul.
After receiving the “T,” Westbrook continued to argue with Foster, who easily could have ejected the two-time All-Star with another technical.
Westbrook was still emotional as teammates met him at midcourt and finally steered him toward the bench.
OKC coach Scott Brooks routinely sends in a substitute for Westbrook around the two-minute mark of the third quarter, but rather than taking out Westbrook so he could regain his composure, Brooks opted to leave him in the game.
It wound up being a wise decision because the game immediately flipped, and the Thunder went on to post a 115-104 victory before another sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Once trailing by 16 with 4:13 left in the third quarter, OKC wound up with its largest come-from-behind victory since Dec. 8, 2010, when it trailed at Milwaukee by 19 points.
Westbrook provided a huge spark, scoring 14 points after the technical foul and not missing a shot from the field. He finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
And it all might never have happened had Brooks decided to bench Westbrook.
“The temptation was there,” Brooks said. “He was able to control his emotions going back into the game. He knew that he had to. We wanted to give ourselves a chance, and we had to keep our composure as a team. He's the point guard of our team. He needs to keep his composure.”