Houston guard Patrick Beverley just became public enemy No. 1 in Oklahoma City for an unnecessary play he made during Game 2 of the Thunder-Rockets series that resulted in a potentially playoff-damaging injury to Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder’s second-leading scorer and the sixth-best scorer in the NBA will have surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee and be out indefinitely. General manager Sam Presti won’t speculate on the timeline for his return until after the procedure was done.
This is devastating news for the Thunder, who are the top-seeded team in the Western Conference and favored to return to the NBA Finals. But without Westbrook, arguably the most dynamic player in the game, Oklahoma City’s title hopes are thrown out the window. It came as a surprise to the Thunder when the team arrived at the practice facility Friday that Westbrook, who hasn’t missed a game dating back to high school, would be out.
The injury occurred with six minutes left in the second quarter of Game 2 when Westbrook crossed halfcourt and just when he was about to call timeout Beverley, a feisty guard who plays with a little bit of an edge, lunged at the ball and his hip struck Westbrook’s right knee. Westbrook knew right away there was something wrong, as he slammed the scorer’s table in frustration and stared at the Rockets bench looking for Beverley.
Beverley called Westbrook’s injury “unfortunate” and claims he had no intention to hurt the Oklahoma City guard.
“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t go out there and try to hurt anybody,” Beverley told USA Today. “I play at one speed and that’s fast. I was just trying to make a play on the ball before they called a timeout and it’s just unfortunate.”
Beverley can defend his actions all day long, but it doesn’t let him off the hook. The play was totally unnecessary and absolutely dirty. Westbrook told Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski that he was “irate” with Beverley, and he has every right to be upset. Beverley just cost him his season, and changed the entire complexion of the NBA playoffs.
If you watch the video closely Beverley lunged right at Westbrook’s knees, which is a big no-no in any sport. You could say that Beverley was simply playing hard, and it was one of those plays that has happened hundreds of times. A player walks the ball across halfcourt, goes near the bench, then calls timeout. But in this case, Beverley went a little too far.
Charles Barkley called it a “dirty” move and totally uncalled for, and Barkley was absolutely right. Beverley is a young player who was definitely trying to get under Westbrook’s skin. He wanted to show Westbrook that he wasn’t going to back down, and he was willing to do just about anything to get an edge and get Westbrook’s attention. But Beverley overstepped his bounds when he went too low and took out Westbrook’s legs.
What goes around, comes around. Beverley better watch his back the rest of this series.
Joel Huerto is editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.