The Oklahoma City Thunder will march on without All-Star Russell Westbrook Saturday as their Western Conference series with the Houston Rockets shifts to Texas.
Westbrook suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during Game 2 in Oklahoma City. He will require surgery and there is no timetable for his return.
"Certainly Russell is a leader and core player for this team, but we are in the midst of the playoffs and I know other players are determined to step up and contribute," said Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
Westbrook, who hadn't missed a game during his five-year career, averaged 24.0 ppg, 7.0 apg and 6.5 rpg during the first two games of the series, both of which were won by the Thunder.
"We're not trying to rush him," said Kevin Durant. "As players, you have to come together as a team and worry about the basketball. All he has to worry about is getting healthy."
Westbrook was injured while heading to the sidelines for a timeout during the second quarter. Rockets' guard Patrick Beverley tried to steal the ball before Westbrook called the timeout and collided with Westbrook's knee.
"We were shocked," said Durant. "I pictured him being ready to play."
Reggie Jackson is assumed to replace Westbrook in the starting lineup, although Thunder head coach Scott Brooks didn't make any formal announcement. Derek Fisher, a multiple-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, could see a bump in playing time.
But as for who will be the primary play-maker is Westbrook's absence, that role will assuredly fall on the league's second-highest scorer during the regular season.
"I have to rev it up a little more," said Durant.
The Thunder blew the Rockets out in Game 1, but only won by three in Game 2. Westbrook stayed in the game on Wednesday as he and Durant both had 29 points.
Now the series shifts, not just geographically, but with Westbrook unavailable, the Rockets have renewed life. Although, Houston is well aware how dangerous OKC still is, even without the sixth-leading scorer in the NBA this season.
"He's a helluva competitor and you hate to see anybody get hurt," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "So I feel bad for him like I would feel bad for anybody but we still have to go out there and play. That's still a very good team."
And Beverley showed no scars from being involved in the play that wounded Westbrook. Some called the play unnecessary, that Beverley should've let Westbrook and the Thunder head into their timeout without the pressure.
"Anyone who knows me knows I don't go out there and try to hurt anybody," Beverley said. "I play at one speed and that's fast. I was just trying to make a play on the ball before they called a timeout and it's just unfortunate."
The Rockets may also be without their starting point guard for Game 3. Jeremy Lin suffered a chest injury on Wednesday, didn't practice on Friday and will be a game-time decision on Saturday.
McHale, like Brooks, didn't offer any insight in who might start in Lin's place.
McHale already made one change to his starting five before Game 2, subbing Beverley in for Greg Smith. Leading scorer James Harden moved from shooting guard to small forward and scored 36 points as opposed to 20 in Game 1.
Saturday's will be the first home playoff game for the Rockets since the 2008-09 postseason when they lost in the conference semifinals to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
The two teams split two regular-season meetings in Houston and Oklahoma City has lost 13 of its last 16 in Houston.
Game 4 is slated for Monday night.