It’s morning after the Houston Rockets savaged the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and life is good for Rockets fans. They have Patrick Beverley to thank for that.
Every way a person can positively impact his team on a basketball court, Beverley did it in Game 1. Lead a team in three-point shooting? Beverley did it. Hound the man who will likely (and wrongfully) be crowned the NBA MVP into 6/23 shooting with 9 turnovers? Beverley did it?
Take a brutal screen from a giant Kiwi and come back to hit two three-pointers that wound up breaking the game open? Beverley did it.
By game’s end, the Wolverine had been to the locker room to be checked for an injury, not once, but twice. He spent the final seven minutes of the contest either in the bowels of Toyota Center or on the bench, watching as his teammates finished what he started with a 31-point win.
The Thunder outscored the Rockets in the first quarter, but the game didn’t deserve to be close. James Harden shot three airballs. Outside of the two big men, no one on the Rockets could put anything in the basket. Except for Beverley, who made his first three shots: two three-pointers and a dunk after straight-up taking Westbrook’s cookies.
That set the tone for the entire night. Beverley and Westbrook got tangled up once, but there were no fireworks. Westbrook hit just six shots total on the night and was a -25. Not only could he not do anything productive while Bev was him, Eric Gordon also gave the triple-double factory problems one-on-one.
The term “maniac” was thrown around on Twitter plenty to describe Beverley’s performance after the game. It feels accurate. Beverley is the Wolverine, going Berserker. He takes hits that would break mortals in half and comes back even stronger. His psychological profile is a researcher’s dream. He’s legal with eagle.
How’s this for maniacal: Pat had a playoff-career-high 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, shot 4-6 from deep and played incredible defense on Westbrook. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Harden went for 37-7-9 with just 2 turnovers, and he will rightly get most of the ink. In the second half when the Rockets took the Thunder outside and beat them to a pulp, Harden was the man who took the most swings. But in the bar fight of the first half, there was Beverley, throwing his body into his rivals as his teammates look on, in awe of his impossible intensity.
Last year, Beverley was in the worst shape of his Rockets career and he was playing on a team disinterested with one another at best. The year before, when the Rockets made the Western Conference Finals, he was at home with a wrist injury, stewing over not being able to compete on the biggest stage.
Beverley is in shape, healthy and like a mad dog — a comparison both he and Harden made after Sunday’s win — barely chained to his leash. He is the kind of player that can take a great team and lift them to playoff wins by any means. He won’t shoot like this every night, but the Rockets can count on nobody, not even the presumptive MVP, outplaying Patrick Beverley.