OKLAHOMA CITY -- Whenever a loss stings a little more than the normal amount, whenever the soul has been extra crushed, Kevin Durant sits at his locker, still in full uniform, and immediately does his postgame interview when the doors open.
This time around, he had a shooting shirt over his jersey because that's what he left the floor wearing. Durant didn't finish the game on Saturday. He fouled out with 4:13 left in overtime after scoring 37 points in 41 minutes.
There are two moments that stand above the rest in the Golden State Warriors' preposterous 121-118 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder: Durant's turnover and foul on Andre Iguodala at the end of regulation that sent the game to overtime, and Stephen Curry's near-half-court winner.
But those two moments were never supposed to happen. With 14 seconds left in regulation, the game looked and felt over after Durant's 3 propelled the Thunder, putting them up 103-99. It was Durant's moment to reclaim his rightful place in the spotlight, outshining Curry in the clutch to slay the unbeatable Warriors.
Durant wants to forget both of those moments.
"I turned the ball (over) and then fouled a shooter," he explained.
Those two plays hung with Durant through the entire break between the fourth quarter and overtime; propped against the scorers table, he stared blankly ahead. Finally, the whistle sounded and he snapped back, setting up a Serge Ibaka dunk with a slick pass on the Thunder's second possession of OT. He had moved on. He still had a chance to right his wrongs. The next trip, though, he bumped Curry from behind, and he was done.
"Obviously, if I was in the game, I felt that would be different, but I fouled," Durant said. "I shouldn't ... I can't touch him when Steph Curry's going to the rim like that. They called a foul on me."
Durant didn't really protest either call, though he obviously didn't approve of them. As the arena erupted, the fans thinking the game had ended when Iguodala's jumper fell short, Durant stood with both arms raised, staring at referee Scott Foster in disbelief. Then, after Foster fouled him out, Durant calmly talked to him during a timeout, saying, "Come on, that's a tough one." Foster told him he'd look at it after the game.
Without Durant, the Thunder still had their chance, though. They rushed to a five-point lead in overtime with Russell Westbrook brilliantly attacking and playmaking. With 1:32 left, they led by four. With 33 seconds left, they led by three, and with 20 seconds left, they were tied and in possession.
Durant stood for virtually all of it, watching alongside Billy Donovan, living and dying with every play. It was his own private torture chamber, put on the bench in maybe the game of the season, forced to watch Curry upstage him.
Coming off an injury-filled season in which he lost 55 games and had three surgeries, Durant's motivation -- on top of winning a championship, of course -- has been in retaking his place in the league's superstar hierarchy. He was the league MVP in 2014, he was the Stephen Curry. He was the unstoppable force of nature, the Slim Reaper, the guy who drew booming oohs and ahhs with every dagger 3-pointer. He was the de facto No. 2 to LeBron, the next rightful torchbearer to carry the "World's Best Player" tag. But with his lost 2014-15 season and the rise of Curry's unthinkable greatness, Durant is once again swimming upstream.
For 13 seconds, he had sent his reminder. He was the one with the backbreaking 3, he was the one who iced a team. And then poof, it vanished with a turnover and a whistle.
The Thunder have lost four of their past five, including three straight at home; they've slipped and sputtered out of the All-Star break. They've proven they're game for the Warriors, but that doesn't count for anything tangible.
"I always want to win," Durant said. "Moral victories are for young teams. We just get better from it and worry about the next game."
That's strike two for the Thunder against the Warriors, with both games tickling their fingertips before Curry snatched it right away. Following the loss on Feb. 6 in Oakland, the players in the Thunder locker room fumed. Durant was especially angry, even taking exception to a few over-jovial reporters upon entering. After this one, he felt dejection and depression, the kind of feeling you normally get following a critical postseason loss.
"I'm going to go home and enjoy me a nice meal and a nice glass of wine and I'll be straight," Durant said.
The crowd around him dispersed to post up around Westbrook's locker, but Durant sat quietly at his, checking his phone and sending some texts. He finally shed his jersey, took a fast shower and made a phone call as he dressed. He gave Westbrook a quick nod, and then he was out.