Ballin: Thunder Win in Dallas, But The Talk Will Be About Russell Westbrook's Benching

At the end of the third quarter, Russell Westbrook milked the clock, decided to attack the basket, and committed a turnover. Instantly, he fouled Jason Kidd. Westbrook, who had been playing well, was pissed, but coach Scott Brooks seemed more upset. He yanked Westbrook from the game, and the point guard went to the bench and began stewing. One of the announcers – maybe Mike Breen – noted that Brooks said, “pass the ball” as Westbrook was walking toward the bench.

Westbrook proceeded to have an animated conversation with himself on the bench. It actually seemed he was more pissed with Brooks’ comment than the turnover itself. Assistant coach Maurice Cheeks went over and said something to Westbrook in an effort to calm him down.

Westbrook didn’t play a minute in the 4th quarter. Ballsy move by OKC coach Scott Brooks. If the Thunder had failed to win without their 2nd best player, they’d be in an 0-2 hole and Brooks would be getting drilled this morning. The pundits would talk about how Brooks is in over his head.

But the bench got the job done, with James Harden scoring 23 points and Eric Maynor adding 13 – neither had a turnover – and the Thunder wrested homecourt advantage from the Mavs. Afterward, Brooks and Durant talked about not wanting to mess with the chemistry by pulling any of the reserves off the floor; Westbrook would only say, “we were winning.”

The Thunder bench totaled 50 points and Kevin Durant added 24. Westbrook had 18 through three quarters. Dirk scored 29, with 16 of those coming in the fourth. Brooks threw a couple double teams at Dirk, but Collison and Ibaka fronted him more and both were quicker on the pick-and-roll rotations, which limited his effectiveness. What really hurt Dallas was only getting 8 points from Jason Terry on 3-of-9 shooting.

OKC is 6-1 at home this season (only loss was in game one to Memphis). My guess: If the Thunder win game three, they will win game four and head back to Dallas looking to close the series out.

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