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“It’s been fun. To be the best, you’ve got to go against the best. So, I’m striving to be one of the elite point guards in the league,” Chalmers said. “To have my name mentioned with them, I’ve got to go against these guys.”

Chalmers said defending Westbrook starts in slowing down the Thunder’s transition game and keeping him out of the paint.

“We’d rather have him shooting pull-ups than have him getting all the way to the rim,” Chalmers said. “You’ve got to pick and choose your battles.”

Westbrook averaged 20.5 points while Oklahoma City split two regular-season meetings with the Heat, but was relatively inefficient. He made only 13 of 42 shots and had eight assists against eight turnovers.

Coach Scott Brooks said understanding Westbrook’s impact goes beyond those numbers, though.

“A lot of times you focus on the wrong things, at least some people do,” he said. “But I really believe that what he does, he brings great energy, he brings great passion, he brings enthusiasm to the practice floor, and it carries over on how we play as a team on the game floor.”

Westbrook’s turnaround has led to an even more dramatic improvement for his team during the postseason. After committing the most turnovers in the league during the regular season, Oklahoma City has the second-fewest in the playoffs and best turnover margin of any team.

“A lot of times, his initial play in a possession dictates whether we’re going to have a good possession or not,” forward Nick Collison said. “He’s always going to be a competitor, he’s always going to play hard, he’s always going to battle against the other team and the guy he’s playing against.

“But the decision-making now, he’s getting so much better at, and that’s really helping us.”