Steven Adams' absence was keenly felt during Oklahoma City Thunder's latest loss, but more for his intimidation factor than his scoring and rebounding stats.
The Kiwi NBA star has missed the Thunder's last two games - both losses - with concussion, after knocking his head on the floor during a win over Sacramento Kings earlier this week. He remains in the league-mandated concussion protocol.
But commentators wondered aloud what might have been, when his team needed an enforcer on court against Golden State Warriors yesterday.
Just before half-time, Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook was flattened by Warriors centre Zaza Pachulia, who then stood over the prone OKC guard, as he writhed on the floor.
Pachulia was assessed a flagrant foul by officials and Westbrook later hinted the matter was not finished.
"He hit me kind of hard," said Westbrook. "But it's all right - I'm gonna get his ass back, straight up."
During half-time on ESPN coverage, former NBA players Jalen Rose and Chauncy Billups hinted the situation could have ended very differently if Adams had been on court, claiming it likely have escalated back in their days, once their designated enforcers intervened.
"Bodies would have moved," warned Billups.
During his short career, Adams has carved a hard-man reputation, refusing to take a backward step in confrontations with some of the league's toughest players. A square-up between him and Pachulia would have added another chapter to this standing.
And the rangy Kiwi already has history with the Warriors, after being kicked in the man-parts twice by forward Draymond Green during last year's playoffs.
But he probably couldn't have helped Westbrook overcome his most embarrassing moment in the showdown with former team-mate Kevin Durant, who switched to Golden State during the off-season.
Westbrook accumulated his 21st trouble-double of the season with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists, but added a fourth, unwanted double-digit category with 10 turnovers.
One of those was a bizarre travel call that saw him take five steps up-court without dribbling the ball. Rules only permit two.
"I guess the limit is six steps," quipped Warriors counterpart Stephen Curry. "I'll keep that in mind going forward."
Oklahoma City face Utah Jazz on Thursday (NZ time), so Adams has almost a week to recover from his concussion.
They next face Golden State Warriors at home on February 12 (NZ).