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Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook shows a flash of maturation

The untold story in the aftermath of the Thunder's 105-102 win over Houston in Game 2 on Wednesday night was how Westbrook, a player many jump to brand a hothead, kept his cool under playoff pressure and at the peak of his personal frustration.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 25, 2013

As he slammed his hand upon the scorer's table, Russell Westbrook sent a cloud of powder high into the air.

No one was sure which would settle first, the remnants of the rosin or Westbrook's fury.

Ultimately, the dust subsided sooner, but the next 10 minutes became a pivotal moment in Westbrook's maturation.

The untold story in the aftermath of the Thunder's 105-102 win over Houston in Game 2 on Wednesday night was how Westbrook, a player many jump to brand a hothead, kept his cool under playoff pressure and at the peak of his personal frustration. Without its point guard keeping his emotions in check, the Thunder could be stuck in a series knotted at one game apiece rather than heading to Houston this weekend with a 2-0 lead.

But after pesky Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley bumped knees with Westbrook on a routine play midway through the second quarter, Westbrook, this time, refused to let his emotions get the best of him. Instead of storming off the court, Westbrook eventually shook it off and responded by scoring 20 points with three assists and four steals following the incident.

That a hobbled Westbrook remained in the game was no surprise. We know about his unmatched durability. He's played in 394 consecutive regular season games, the longest streak among active NBA players.

But what we witnessed Wednesday night was Westbrook redefine his unbreakable trait and show, perhaps for the first time, that he's becoming as unflappable as he is indestructible.

“During this time of the year, as a team we got one goal and we can't let nobody get in the way,” Westbrook said. “That's how I feel, and that's how I want my team to respond as well.”

Let's rewind to the five-minute mark of the second quarter.

Rockets forward Greg Smith had just grabbed one of Houston's 19 offensive rebounds and converted a putback with an uncontested one-handed dunk. It gave the Rockets a 42-41 lead, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks had seen enough.

As Westbrook advanced the ball past halfcourt, everyone knew a timeout was coming. Beverley, however, dove at Westbrook in an attempt to steal the ball. The momentum of the two caused a light collision and Westbrook got the worst of it.

Westbrook fell to the floor, clutching his right knee while wincing in obvious discomfort. He immediately popped up in anger but had to hop on his left leg as he turned toward Beverley before stopping at the scorer's table, where he demonstrated his disdain for what Beverley had done.

Following the timeout, Westbrook had that look in his eyes. That look we've seen so many times in the past. That look of revenge.

In the past, you never knew how that would turn out for Westbrook and the Thunder. And this time, it was close to heading in the wrong direction. Close to turning into one of Westbrook's highly publicized meltdown moments.

In the next three minutes, 41 seconds, Westbrook jacked up four shots. Two were quality looks and two seemed to stem from his desire for revenge, as Westbrook nearly turned the game into a personal battle with Beverley. Over that span, Westbrook also forced a drive into traffic, resulting in a jump ball, and was called for an offensive foul.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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