And so, our interest piqued, we switched League Pass channels and rewound the DVR to reveal this:
... which, yes, was a little bit of what my old boss Trey Kerby might call a yikes festival.
After picking off an errant Ben Gordon pass (other answers we'd accept include "ill-advised Ben Gordon pass" and "lazy Ben Gordon pass"), the Thunder point guard broke up-court and was all by himself as soon as he crossed the timeline. That's a lot of opportunity to think about what you want to do when you actually get to the rim, and when you're a dunker as explosive, athletic and ferocious as Westbrook is, you've got plenty of options from which to choose in that situation. By the time he reached the restricted area, Russell seemed to be stricken by option paralysis, resulting in the ... um ... less than graceful finish depicted above, and in his jovially-less-than-forthcoming response to questions about the play in the locker room after the game, according to Young:
"It was two points," Westbrook said when asked what happened there. "Two points."
"I got a great look at that one too," said [teammate Kevin Durant]. "I thought he was going to do something a little better than he did, but he made up for it at the end of the half."
Boy, did he ever. Less than two minutes of game time later, Westbrook had a much better idea of what he'd like to do with the ball when airborne, much to the chagrin of the Bobcats and their backers. Behold:
The dunk itself is obviously amazing, but maybe even cooler was how succinctly and summarily Westbrook just left Charlotte defender Kemba Walker. The UConn product's got some jets on him, but Westbrook picked the exact right moment to drive — just as Walker had taken a slight backpedal and was flat-footed — and pushed his dribble to the right, and by his second dribble he was already past the Bobcats' sophomore triggerman. From there, he had a clear path to the paint (thanks in part to some judicious back-screening by Kendrick Perkins) and a chance to throw down. This time, as Jeff Latzke of The Associated Press wrote, Westbrook took it, with authority:
Asked whether there was any reason he slammed the ball down so hard, he gave a big grin and said: "It's a tendency. I have a tendency of dunking the ball like that. Just natural, I guess."
More natural than whatever he did about 90 seconds earlier, that's for sure.
Westbrook finished with 12 points, 11 assists, two rebounds, two steals and two turnovers in just under 22 minutes of run, as Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks yanked his stars before the midway point of the third quarter with the Thunder up huge on the struggling cats. He was one of six Thunder players in double figures, led by Durant, who had 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 26 1/2 minutes.
Only one Bobcat cracked double digits: rookie forward Jeffery Taylor, who had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. The rest of Charlotte's roster hit just 19 of 72 field goal attempts, a 26.4 percent clip much more reminiscent of last year's league-worst 7-59 squad than the upstart Cats who entered Monday night at 7-5 and in the top half of the conference standings for the first time in years. By one measurement, in fact, it was even worse than that; the 45-point blowout now stands as the most lopsided defeat in Charlotte's largely ignominious nine-year history, replacing last year's largest whitewashing, a 112-68 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 1, 2012.