8:00 PM ET, March 11, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
His play said otherwise.
During last year's playoffs, Beverley dived for the ball and ran into Westbrook's right knee as a timeout was being called, causing the injury that ended Westbrook's season and cost him about half of this season. In their first meeting since the incident, Westbrook had 24 points, seven assists and four steals to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Houston Rockets 106-98 on Tuesday night.
Beverley finished with two points and five fouls in 25 minutes while being booed by a spirited crowd. His matchup with Westbrook highlighted a game filled with shoving, technical fouls, talking and even a flagrant foul.
"Two great teams that want to win: It's that simple," Houston's James Harden, who scored 28 points, said. "When you get that anytime in the NBA, things are going to get physical."
The chippiness started early. Beverley swiped the ball away from Westbrook after a timeout with 6:10 left in the first quarter. Beverley and Westbrook had to be separated, and Beverley issued a technical foul. Beverley and Westbrook got tangled up again about a minute later, but again, Westbrook kept his cool. Durant said Westbrook's ability to turn the energy into a strong performance was impressive.
"He just went out there and played to win," Durant said. "That's how Russell always plays -- with an edge, with that intensity, and tonight was no different."
Beverley said he wasn't trying to get inside of Westbrook's head.
"That's how I play against everybody," he said. "No personal battles out there today. I had to go out there and fight and do what I do to try to help our team win a basketball game today."
If anything, the intensity initiated by the Rockets worked against them.
"I think if we just stick to what we do and do it to the best of our abilities, no matter what's going on, we'll be good," Harden said. "Sometimes we kind of veer off, kind of get distracted a little bit."
Durant scored 42 points and Serge Ibaka had 12 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks for the Thunder, who had lost two straight.
Midway through the second quarter, Harden and backup Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson had to be separated.
Westbrook spent the rest of the second quarter dominating Beverley. Westbrook blew past him for a layup, then lost him on a screen and made a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 49-32. Westbrook drew Beverley's third foul on a 3-point attempt with 2:50 left in the first half. Westbrook scored 11 points in the final 6:19 of the quarter to help the Thunder take a 56-41 lead at the break. Oklahoma City held Houston to 35 percent shooting in the first half.
Howard committed his third and fourth fouls in the first two minutes of the third quarter, and Beverley committed his fourth with 8:52 left in the third as the Thunder maintained control.
Oklahoma City led by 18 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets chipped away late in the period and trailed 77-67 heading into the fourth.
Houston rallied, and a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia and a dunk by Omer Asik cut Oklahoma City's lead to 77-72 early in the fourth. Durant answered with five straight points to put the Thunder back in control.
The game remained chippy. Garcia got hit in the face by Durant, drawing a technical. Harden hit a 3-pointer with Derek Fisher in his face to trim Oklahoma City's lead to 97-92 with 2:23 to go.
Westbrook drew Beverley's fifth foul on a 3-point attempt, drawing a cheer from the crowd. Westbrook drained all three free throws to put the Thunder up 102-94 with 1:31 to play. Durant said the Thunder closed the game the right way after Houston's surge.
"Stay calm," he said. "Stay cool. Try not to panic."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that C Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) and Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain) are a ways from being ready to play. Perkins was hurt Feb. 20 against Miami. Sefolosha was injured Feb. 28 against Memphis. ... Durant scored 12 points in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City's post players combined to commit seven fouls in the first quarter. ... Howard was called for a technical foul in the second quarter after disagreeing with an offensive foul call. ... Oklahoma City center Steven Adams was called for a flagrant 1 for making contact with Harden's head.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 11: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets and Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City...(Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Kevin Durant earns this with his 11th 40-plus-points game of the season on just 22 shots, as well as the dagger to put OKC up 104-96 with less than a minute left. Houston just didn't have anyone who could stop him in the final minutes. (Though, does anyone?)
LVP: With no Kendrick Perkins, Dwight Howard should have a big game, right? Wrong. Howard was completely stymied in the post and also went 1-for-6 from the free throw line, his first game shooting sub-50 percent there since Feb. 20.
That was ... testy: Patrick Beverley and Westbrook confronted each other less than five minutes in. Then Harden and Reggie Jackson, and then Durant and Francisco Garcia. With Houston surging, could we be looking at another rivalry?
Next 5 Games
Dwight Howard: 9 points Tuesday vs OKC Howard has three games this season in which he played 25+ minutes and scored less than 10 points Two have come against Oklahoma City
*Russell Westbrook committed four of his five turnovers in the first quarter as he was held without a transition attempt. Westbrook averages 6.3 transition points per game, third in the league behind James Harden and LeBron James.[+]
Kevin Durant now has 34 games with 40+ points over the last five seasons - 10 more than any other player in that span. Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant have 24 apiece.[+]
The Rockets have an effective field goal percentage of 45% against the Thunder this season (0-3), their lowest against any team in the league. Houston posted an effective field goal percentage of 55% during its five-game winning streak.[+]
*Kevin Durant scored 21 of his 42 points on pull-up jump shots Tuesday, including 10 of his 12 fourth-quarter points. Durant entered the game averaging 7.9 points per game on pull-up shots, tied with teammate Russell Westbrook for fourth in the league, according to NBA player-tracking data.[+]
Kevin Durant Pull-Up Jump Shots
Kevin Durant has scored at least 25 points in 29 straight games, tied for the third-longest single-season streak by any player in the last 50 years.[+]
As bad as Houston's first half was tonight against OKC, it was a lot better than the 2nd half of its last meeting with the Thunder on January 16. In their last two halves against the Thunder, the Rockets have been outscored 101 to 60.[+]
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