HOUSTON — It was one of those plays that looked scary. There was Patrick Beverley, the right side of his face on the Toyota Center floor and his eyes closed. He wasn’t moving. The Houston Rockets guard had run into a Steven Adams screen and hit the floor hard, and the crowd reacted with a hush.
Then Beverley got up and acted as if nothing had happened. Just a typical play for the heart and soul of this team.
After the third-quarter screen by Adams, the Rockets rolled, outscoring the Thunder 54-28. If you thought Beverley wasn’t going to recover, think again. After crashing to the floor, Beverley made all three of the shots he took for eight points. And just for a cherry on top, after the screen, Beverley slapped hands with Houston Texans pass-rusher J.J. Watt, who was sitting courtside next to the Rockets bench. Watt, a man who has laid a few hits on ball carriers in his career, gave the impression he loves a hard hit from time to time.
“It was legal screen,” Beverley said. “Good screen.”
Beverley briefly went into the locker room to have his back checked, and he received treatment after the game. But the Rockets know he’s their tough guy. As he stood outside the interview room, coach Mike D’Antoni playfully bumped into his back, noting his man was all right.
“Every player is unique, but the closest thing to him is Raja Bell,” said D’Antoni, referencing his small forward from his days as coach in Phoenix. “He had that type of competitive spirit, you don’t find it too often and it’s pretty rare.”
When you add it all up, Beverley outplayed the Thunder’s MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook.
He scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, was plus-18 in the box score and provided outstanding defense against Westbrook. Westbrook went 3-for-9 from the field with two turnovers and eight points against Beverley. Maybe the tone was set early in the first quarter when Beverley stole the ball from Westbrook and scored on a two-handed dunk.
Beverley joked after the game he wasn’t sure if he could get up that high. Well, he was not only getting up high, he was playing at another level.
“He does it every game,” James Harden said. “That’s the reason why we’re in the position that we’re in. He brings it every game. Whether or not his shot is falling or not, he brings that intensity. Tonight he made shots, he rebounded the ball at a high level, he’s just Pat tonight.”
Beverley wasn’t alone.
Harden, the other MVP candidate in this heavyweight showdown, scored 37 points and created 59. The Rockets were just more physical than the Thunder, outrebounding them by 15. It was a stunning effort on the boards by the Rockets, considering the Thunder led the NBA in rebounding during the regular season with 1,002 offensive rebounds. In Game 1, Houston had seven more offensive rebounds than Oklahoma City.
But let’s not forget Beverley, who was committed from the first second of the game, through that hard screen and on to the final buzzer. At the end of the night, he just stood on the court seemingly standing and waiting for something more to happen. The players from the Thunder walked in the opposite direction, deflated, knowing they must regroup for Game 2 on Wednesday. Beverley will be waiting.
“Pat played great, unbelievable,” forward Trevor Ariza said. “A lot of energy, hit a lot of shots, made plays. He did everything that we needed him to do.”