December 30, 2011
It had been a rough 24 hours for Russell Westbrook. The Oklahoma City Thunder's star point guard turned in arguably the worst game of his career in a 98-95 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, missing all 13 of his field goal attempts and scoring just four points in more than 31 minutes of action.
The bold-faced headline, though, was the heat-of-the-moment clash between Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the Thunder bench after Westbrook barked at Thabo Sefolosha for passing up an open 3-pointer. While any sound and fury present in that moment almost surely signified nothing, it stirred memories of rumored tensions brewing during last year's playoffs, which made for crummy mainstream media "debate" and a bad day for OKC.
On top of that, Westbrook started Thursday night looking kind of ragged, hitting just two of his first eight shots and canceling out his four assists with four turnovers. He looked like he could use a pick-me-up.
Luckily, about four-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter, Mavericks center Brendan Haywood was there to lend a hand.
It didn't change Westbrook's fortunes completely or right away — after getting credit for Haywood's own goal, the fourth-year lead guard finished the third quarter with an offensive foul, two turnovers and a missed 17-footer — but it got the wheels turning, at least. When he came off the bench to relieve reserve point guard Eric Maynor in the fourth quarter, Westbrook looked like, well, Russell Westbrook.
The UCLA product scored seven points in the final 3:16, finished a fast break with a dunk while being fouled that led the Oklahoma City crowd to start chanting his name, grabbed a key offensive rebound and notched a steal to help OKC keep pace with the charging defending champs in the breakneck rush to the game's classic finish. Westbrook finished with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and seven turnovers in Oklahoma City's thrilling 104-102 home win.
All thanks to the outstretched arms of Brendan Haywood, who seems to have a thing for helping Thunderers look their best. Just ask Kevin Durant.
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to peruse it elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.