By Ben Golliver
Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook lost his cool during the third quarter of a 106-89 win over the Grizzlies on Thursday night, exchanging words with assistant coach Mo Cheeks before briefly departing toward the team's locker room.
Westbrook's frustration appeared to begin with 8:54 remaining in the third quarter and the Thunder leading 65-40. He was whistled for a five-second violation as he backed down on Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless in the post. He then exchanged words with teammate Thabo Sefolosha, who had cut through the lane before Westbrook's violation, bringing a second defender into Westbrook's area. After the discussion, Westbrook punched the ball to the court and went back on defense.
He appeared to carry on the conversation with the Thunder's bench at the beginning of the ensuing defensive possession before badly missing a wild runner on Oklahoma City's next possession and, later, allowing Bayless to leak out behind him for a dunk after a Kevin Durant turnover. At that point, Thunder coach Scott Brooks called timeout and Westbrook was removed from the game, well before his usual rotation.
Westbrook returned from the locker room with a towel draped on his head and sat out the rest of the third quarter. Brooks re-inserted Westbrook to start the fourth quarter.
Durant addressed Westbrook's actions during a televised post-game interview.
"Throughout a game you're going to have some ups and downs," Durant said on TNT. "Russ is so emotional he wants to win so bad, he wants to give it all for our team. It's just a bump in the road, he has to continue being himself, we'll be fine."
Westbrook finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes. Durant led the Thunder with a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Bayless had a team-high 23 points and six assists in the loss.