Coming into the first round of the playoffs, fans and pundits alike were left drooling at the thought of a Houston Rockets–Oklahoma City Thunder series, pitting together two heavyweight guards in Westbrook and James Harden. However, it wasn’t Harden that proved to be Westbrook’s toughest challenger.
Beverley, renown for his tenacious, pesky defense, was issued with the simple task of getting under Westbrook’s skin. The Houston guard not only met this expectation, but surpassed it, as the Rockets won the series 4-1.
To add some context, a few years back Beverley attempted to steal the ball from Westbrook just as a timeout was called, the resulting contact saw the Oklahoma point suffer a knee injury that he was not best pleased about.
Since then, the pair have been engaged in several heated disagreements and scuffles, but none to the extent that was on show during the first round of this year’s playoffs.
During Game 1, it appeared that Westbrook’s teammates chose to rally behind their franchise player, helping fuel his rivalry. Just eight minutes into the third quarter, Steven Adams left the Rockets faithful wincing after he set a hard screen on Beverley, knocking him to the ground.
Steven Adams treating Patrick Beverley like a high school freshman walking through the hall 😳pic.twitter.com/hGk49Wixv9
— Fanly (@fanly) April 17, 2017
Despite the probable pain of running full speed into a 7-foot New Zealander, Beverley refused to shy away from the challenge. He picked himself up and kept hassling.
Houston ran out eventual winners in a lopsided affair, leading to questions of Westbrook’s comfort against Beverley’s defensive presence. “I don’t worry about nobody, how they’re defending. I can pretty much do what I want to do,” he told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne after a 22-point, nine-turnover performance.
Tempers threatened to boil over in Game 5. In a must-win game for the Thunder in order to keep their playoff run alive, they ultimately choked after leading by five going into the final quarter.
In his post-game press conference, Beverley took the opportunity to call out Westbrook with open arms after the Rockets’ triumph.
“It shocked me because he looked up and said ‘no one can guard me I have 40 points’ I was like that’s nice, it took you 34 shots get it. I’m not trying to bash anybody but men lie, women lie but the numbers don’t. Collectively as a unit we done a great job on him.”
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Westbrook, who was evidently frustrated at his team’s early exit, was quick to retaliate:
“He was talking about he was first team All-Defense, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about because I had 42 (points) at the time. I don’t know what he was talking about maybe he was dreaming or some s—“
Regardless of the petty squabbles the two were heavily invested in, it is undeniable that when Beverley was guarding Westbrook, he nullified his impact. During the series, the 28-year-old Thunder guard was limited to just 7-of-27 shooting with five turnovers when the two matched-up.
Not all the numbers are on Westbrook’s side. pic.twitter.com/M7KDrMEJTG
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2017
While this series may be over, and Oklahoma have been subsequently dumped out, don’t expect this rivalry to cool off. The pair have notoriously disliked each other for quite some time, and this is likely to continue long into their respective careers.