OKLAHOMA CITY — Hard to believe a guy like Patrick Beverley could turn a season around.
He has once, and he just might have done it again.
The first time, a season ago, things turned for the worse when Beverley ran into Russell Westbrook and it indirectly ran the Thunder out of the playoffs.
And last night, on the same court in Oklahoma City, a season later, no one was injured but it looked like OKC got healthy.
So what if it took a handful of technical fouls, some pushing, shoving, some attitude and a bunch of Patrick Beverley?
"We’re one game removed from not playing the way we want to play," coach Scott Brooks said. "We have to look at that as one game. We have to come back and do the same thing tomorrow night. I like that we did it. We have to play with a certain edge on both ends of the floor for us to be in a position to win."
Tuesday’s performance might have been one game removed from a loss to Los Angeles where the Thunder allowed 114 points, but it was light years removed from the attitude and intensity displayed in a string of sloppy defensive showings that contributed to a 3-5 stretch since the All-Star break.
Maybe it’s thanks in part to Beverley, but the Thunder played with a grease fire intensity, ignited by the first meeting between Beverley and Westbrook since last season. And when Beverley ran into Westbrook once again, at about the 6 minute mark of the first quarter, OKC seemed to really sharpen to a point.
That point came in the second quarter when Reggie Jackson body-bumped the Rockets’ James Harden in the same fashion as Beverley did Westbrook. Perhaps it was then, more than beating the Heat in Miami or at any other time, did OKC seem to be as one.
Steven Adams scuffled with Harden, Brooks exchanged with words Harden, as did Kevin Durant and Houston’s Francisco Garcia.
The words Brooks has been saying over and over about needing an improvement on defense have all been true, but it was the words from Houston which got through to the Thunder.
The biggest change OKC needed was in attitude not in defense or offense, and thanks to Houston, it happened.
And now, thanks to another scheduling break, attitude can affect action once again. Sunday, the Thunder put forth possibly their worst performance in three seasons. They gave up 114 points, blew an 18-point lead and lost a good deal of dignity in losing to the last-place Lakers. Good thing there’s another chance so quickly. While there’s nothing personal waiting from the Lakers when they come to town Thursday night, the element of revenge and getting right is strong.
"I like to focus on all 82 games, one at a time," Brooks said. "You have to treat every game equally important. They beat us the last game and we had a chance to win. It’s important we put our best foot forward and play for our team."
It feels like the Thunder need extra motivation. Odd, considering the best thing about the Thunder in recent history was it’s likability, a team-first attitude. That was there last night, but was noticeably absent in the past three weeks.
"We had one good game," Brooks said. "You have to have one before you get to two. We want to make sure our minutes are played hard and together. We just have to do it every night."