Russell Westbrook silenced his critics and achieved his hard-earned redemption in Game 4 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, scoring 43 points as his Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat, keeping the Thunder in it to the end, though OKC ended up losing the contest 104-98.
Westbrook came under heavy fire for his performance in the first three games of the 2012 NBA Finals, but he showed that it was all just talk with his stellar showing Thursday night in Game 4.
ABC game announcer Jeff Van Gundy, one of the many NBA observers who had criticized Westbrook's play in Finals games 1 through 3, had nothing but praise as Westbrook notched 11 points in a row in the second half.
This is one of the great Finals performances in many years, Van Gundy said of Russell Westbrook.
That remark came just a few days after Magic Johnson -- one of the best players ever to hold Westbrook's position of point guard -- called Russell Westbrook's performance in Game 2 last Thursday one of the worst he'd ever seen for a point guard in an NBA Finals.
All the criticism faded in Game 4, when Russell Westbrook tore up the Miami Heat defense in front of his cheering parents, who were in the stands cheering him on in Thunder blue.
The Heat couldn't keep him out of the paint, as he drived to the basket time and time again, as Mike Breen put it.
And if Miami did, Westbrook -- a hard worker who's never missed a game in his four-year career -- would just make his trademark pull-up jumper from the top sidebar of the free-throw line, as he also did over and over again Thursday night.
In total, he put up a majestic 37 points in the first 38 minutes of a do-or-die NBA Finals game, only one of which was a free throw -- amazingly the only one he took in that period of time -- despite the aggressive driving and ball-handling he had been doing all night to that point.
And LeBron James going out of the game for a stretch after a hard fall halfway through the fourth quarter did not help the Heat as they tried to stop the offensive onslaught brought by Westbrook -- the league's fifth-highest scorer -- who out-shined his superstar teammate, league scoring leader Kevin Durant with his massive scoring performance in Game 4.
But in the end it was all for naught for Russell Westbrook, as the Thunder were devastated yet again by a slim-deficit loss. Still, Russell Westbrook can hold his head proud. He's earned his redemption.
And he doesn't even have to say anything to convince us of it. Mike Breen took care of it for us during the third quarter by asking the question that may be running circles in Westbrook's head:
Who's shooting too much now?