The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets played one another Tuesday night and there’s only one word to describe one of the NBA’s best rivalries: heated.
Kevin Durant did what he does, scoring 42 points as the Thunder won 106-98, but the rebirth of the Russell Westbrook-Patrick Beverley rivalry stole the show. Westbrook and Beverley were facing one another for the first time since Beverley knocked Westbrook out of the playoffs last year when the two got tangled up as Westbrook was trying to call a timeout. Westbrook has had three knee operations since then and Beverley’s tough-guy reputation has only grown.
So when the two met up Tuesday, they picked up where they left off, tangling repeatedly throughout the game as it became increasingly apparent that Beverley gets under Westbrook’s skin.)
Beverley, who was wearing a mask to protect a broken nose, went out early with his third foul, ending all the fun.
“You guys know I love Russell,” Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks said (via Jenni Carlson of OKNews.com), “and this is why I really like him — he doesn’t like the 58 point guards that he plays against. He’s not out there to make friends. He’s not out there to be anybody’s buddy. … He’s about playing the right way. He’s about playing a game that we as a coaching staff, as fans, as an organization can be proud of. That’s what he does every single night; he just plays the way it’s supposed to be played.”
For his part, Beverley said he wasn’t sending a message to Westbrook. “That’s how I play against everybody. No personal battles against anybody,” he said (via the Houston Chronicle). “I go out there and fight and do what I do to try to win a basketball game.”