What Happened: Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley Did Not Fight
Game 1 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets was supposed to be the battle of the presumptive MVPs, but it was more about the supporting cast: namely Patrick Beverley, who caused Russell Westbrook to tear his meniscus when the two teams met in the 2013 playoffs. To be fair, Beverley was going for the ball. There was nothing to suggest it was anything worse than reckless, but that didn’t matter to Russell Westbrook’s torn meniscus then, nor does it matter to the Thunder guard now. No, the two didn’t fight, but it’s Game 1. It’s early.
The rude truth of it is that Westbrook doesn’t play well against people and/or teams with which he has beef because, while he’s at his best when angry, he’s at his most careless when annoyed. It compounds his tendency to play erratically in big games. Beverley’s minutes mirrored Westbrook’s, and he menaced Russ into nine turnovers. The Rockets won and won by a lot, 118–87.
Highlight: Steven Adams Swats Patrick Beverley Like a Biplane
Beverley was a deceptively high floor moulding to Westbrook’s big toe all evening, but there was a brief moment when it looked like he might be out of commission after Adams gave him the Rick Mahorn special.
What we regularly forget is that Patrick Beverley chose to play in Ukraine at the age of 20, takes pain like Tylenol, and in all likelihood can sneeze with his eyes open. He hit two massive 3s after getting truck-sticked, the second of which forced Billy Donovan into a timeout to stop the bleeding. And then he did this, which, I don’t know what it is, but it’s fire:
Lowlight: Enes Kanter, God Rest His Soul
While watching James Harden cross Sonic Rings out of Kanter, know that it’s on every other Thunder player for leaving their Turkish teammate in the lurch. Once Harden had Kanter in iso, everyone watching knew exactly how it would go and that it would be unfair. But art is open to interpretation once it’s out there in the ether.
[Extremely Duke Tango circa And 1 Mixtape Vol. 1 voice] OH BABY.
What It Means
Not much? The rest of the night’s proceedings were largely a solemn reminder that the Thunder Are Not Actually Good — not at 3s or stops. The team that was league-first in rebounding was outrebounded by 15. The Thunder will need to do what they did to stay close with the Rockets during the regular season, which is mainly hit the basics — pester the Rockets on the perimeter, bully them on the inside, slow down and frustrate Harden, and keep everyone (including and especially Harden) off the line.
Also, Russ is going to have to either let the hurt go, or fight Pat Bev and get it out of the way. I personally prefer the latter.