Late in the second quarter of the Lakers’ Game 3 victory over the Thunder, Russell Westbrook hit the deck to secure a loose ball. Metta World Peace then attempted to reach in and grab it, hoping to get a jump-ball call from the official standing nearby. As with many physical plays involving World Peace, that’s when the fun began.
Westbrook fought like hell to keep the ball from World Peace, swinging his arms wildly while on the floor and appearing to attempt to get a timeout called before World Peace could gain a share of control. World Peace only got closer as Westbrook continued to flail, and eventually, Westbrook’s elbow hit the back of World Peace’s knee, which then conveniently dropped onto Westbrook.
Westbrook then flipped out a little, and quickly jumped to his feet to let World Peace know that his actions were not appreciated.
Joey Crawford stepped in with the timely and very physical taking away of Westbrook, everyone else had to be separated, and that was that. After the officials reviewed the play, it was determined only that both players were a little overly-aggressive in their actions, so double technical fouls were all that were issued.
With the recent history between these two teams — namely, the elbow from World Peace to the head of the Thunder’s James Harden before the end of the regular season that resulted in a seven-game suspension — you can’t blame the referees for being on a high alert of sorts to prevent things from escalating beyond basketball.
Westbrook basically downplayed the whole thing afterward when asked what happened.
“Not sure,” he said. “Just trying to get the loose ball and then quickly call a timeout, but I guess it was kind of hard for the refs to see it. That’s all I was trying to do.”
After watching the replay multiple times, it’s clear that there really wasn’t much to this little interaction. But it did set the tone for the rest of the game, both in terms of chippiness between the teams, as well as whistles blown by the officials.
The game was called more tightly than usual the rest of the way, with the Lakers shooting a whopping 42 free throws (and making 41) while the Thunder ended up hitting 26 of their 28 attempts.
That type of game is going to favor the Lakers in this series every single time.