The game was in hand, the series outcome clear, the impenetrable fortress that is Oracle Arena claiming another victim. A dominant first half for the Golden State Warriors felt like nothing short of a formality.
And then Russell Westbrook happened. In a blur of athleticism, scoring and domination he shook the Warriors to their core and turned a rout into an eventual 108-102 Oklahoma City Thunder stunner. And changed, for now, the course of the Western Conference finals.
It was shocking to see, and not just because we have grown accustomed to Warriors home wins and mostly unfettered postseason greatness. Westbrook’s star turn came after he began the game on a 1-of-11 shooting slump that seemed destined to force him to eat those words from earlier in the day about Stephen Curry being “nothing I haven’t seen.”
What we hadn’t expected to see was just this level of Westbrook awfulness in such a key game: A first half that included 1-of-8 shooting, three miserly points, three turnovers. The four steals and eight assists over that stretch seemed, at the time, like statistical consolation prizes.