OKLAHOMA CITY -- The tone was obvious as early as Sunday afternoon at the Oklahoma City Thunder's practice facility. There was no media circus, no buzz, no hype.
With Kevin Durant sitting in the Golden State Warriors' second trip to Oklahoma City, any remaining steam was lifted off Monday night's matchup. The atmosphere outside the arena pregame was tame, and that carried over to the inside. There were only a scattered number of signs, one of which said, "Get well soon, KD," held by a fan wearing a Russell Westbrook jersey. The fan wearing the cupcake costume was back, and this time walking around with a crutch -- a jab at Durant's injury -- but no one seemed to care. There were no chants; there was only some standard booing for Draymond Green.
It was all a perfect stage for the game itself, which followed the theme of all four matchups between the two teams this season. The Warriors overwhelmed with talent and relentless offense, while any comeback push, led mostly by Westbrook, fell woefully short. The final score had it as 111-95, Warriors, but it wasn't nearly as close as that.
For a fleeting moment, there was a flash of intensity as the teams scuffled with 5.3 seconds left before halftime. It started with Semaj Christon and Stephen Curry jockeying for position during a jump ball, and escalated when Westbrook stepped in. Both teams did some pushing, with four technical fouls eventually being handed out after a lengthy review.
"Protecting my teammates, that's what's going through my mind," Westbrook said of the skirmish. "I think Curry tried to get into it with Semaj, tried to push him, and I stepped right in between. That's it. Once I see something going down with my teammates, I'm hopping in."
The Warriors won the ensuing tip, flipped a long pass down to a streaking Curry, who buried a deep 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to put the Warriors up 20. Westbrook tried to spark a brief third-quarter run with a straightaway 3 that cut it to 12 and him yelling, "Come on! Come on!" as the Warriors called timeout. After that, the Warriors went on a 19-5 run. The only fight the Thunder can apparently put up against the Warriors doesn't include basketball.
It's just the way it has gone for OKC against the Warriors this season. There's the obvious issue, that No. 35 plays on the other team now and the Thunder don't quite have a comparable replacement, but that doesn't explain what happened Monday. If there was an opportunity for Westbrook and the Thunder to have their day against Golden State, this appeared to be it. It was the Durant-less bowl, a game to see which team coped better with his absence. Curry and Klay Thompson were dominant, combining for 57 points and 14 3s. Westbrook finished with a sheepish 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, featuring 4-of-16 shooting.
Even the Thunder locker room postgame wasn't the same. It was light and loose, with Westbrook and Victor Oladipo laughing at their lockers. It wasn't the dour, downtrodden and depressed atmosphere the first three meetings had.
"We just lost the game," Oladipo said. "You win some and you lose some. We are looking forward to hopefully seeing those guys down the road. We're going to watch film and learn from it and hopefully figure it out."
Said Westbrook: "It was just one of those nights. Shots didn't fall. ... They made shots, as well. A few mishaps defensively, but we'll be all right."
The Thunder had spent the past week and a half building momentum behind a five-game win streak that featured some of their best, most complete basketball of the season. Monday was a letdown, for a number of reasons. They expected better from themselves. They can talk about how it's an ordinary game, or how there's no rivalry, but the Thunder struggle against the Warriors in large part because they lose their identity. The Thunder tried to put up a fight, but there wasn't much left to swing for. That's what happens when you've lost seven straight games, and one important player, to a team.