OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder had just turned in maybe the best quarter in franchise history.
They had erased a 13-point halftime deficit and made way for a 128-110 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers and yet, somehow, that frame, when everything changed, when OKC outscored LA 39-10, managed to not be the story coming out of Chesapeake Energy Arena Tuesday night.
How’s that possible?
It was about 4 1/2 years ago when Beverley, then a member of the Houston Rockets, shot toward the ball and Russell Westbrook’s knees during the 2013 playoffs, ending Westbrook’s season and torpedoing maybe OKC’s last best shot at an NBA championship.
Tuesday, halfway through the fourth quarter, Westbrook very nearly lost the ball on the dribble, and as he regained control of the ball, Beverley dove.
The aftermath yielded a flagrant I foul against Beverley, two Westbrook free throws that made it 110-92 with 6:20 remaining and the ball out of bounds to the Thunder.
Yet, between Beverley’s dive and the free throws, it was pandemonium.
Westbrook had nearly lost control of the ball, yet it was back in his arms when Beverley hit the deck and barreled toward his knees.
That’s why it was a flagrant foul. And, perhaps, because it was eerily similar to the 2013 playoffs, Westbrook was not ready to let it go. He did not immediately return to the Thunder bench when OKC coach Billy Donovan called a timeout.
Westbrook and Beverley got close enough to each other to begin jawing and both picked up technical fouls.
It was intense.
“He had the ball in his hands, it wasn’t like it was loose on the floor,” Donovan said, offering an accurate interpretation of what the replay showed. “I’m just glad Russell is OK.”
For his part, on a night he finished with 32 points on 13 of 25 shooting, Westbrook steered
“I have no comment,” he said. “I just know that we won the game.”
Westbrook did most of his scoring — 18 points — in the first half.
Though he was scoring, OKC’s first unit wasn’t holding up. When Westbrook re-entered 8:21 before half, the score was 38-38. By the half, the Clippers led 67-54. Yet, after the half, it turned around in a blink.
In just the third quarter, the Thunder made 14 of 20 shots, 5 of 8 from 3-point land and — because not everything can go right — just 6 of 11 free throws.
OKC also out-rebounded LA 14 to 6, helped played a role in eight Clipper turnovers, four of which were outright steals and committed four fouls, total, never sending LA to the free-throw line.
“I thought we just locked in,” said Paul George, who netted 11 of his Westbrook-matching 32 points in the frame.
Also in the quarter, Jerami Grant scored 8 of his 12 points and Steven Adams scored six of his 18 and grabbed three of his 10 rebounds. Westbrook only scored seven in the frame, but dished four of his eight assists.
The Clippers did not cut into the lead, either, the rest of the way as the Thunder outscored them 74-43 after the half.
Danilo Galinari led LA with 27 points, but scored just four after the half. Lou Williams added 17 off the bench. Tobias Harris finished with 15.
Beverley played 26 minutes and scored four points, the same number of fouls he committed, technical not included.
“There’s some history there,” Donovan said.
Now there’s more.