OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kevin Durant coasted past his defender with two sweeping steps and elevated to crush the rim. He landed, let out a trademark roar, and spun around to find Russell Westbrook, who was standing at the free throw line. Durant said something in Westbrook's direction.
It was the first time they'd spoken since July 4.
"I know those guys over there," Durant said, "and they know me. Trash talk is a part of it."
From Westbrook's perspective: "The Warriors were doing a lot of trash-talking," he said. "Apparently I guess they talk a lot of trash talk ... now."
Durant and the Golden State Warriors routed Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-96 on Thursday. Behind 39 spectacular points from Durant, the Warriors overwhelmed OKC, as a 37-11 second quarter blew the doors open. Westbrook struggled with 20 points on 4-of-15 shooting, plus 10 assists. There were some brief fireworks, with Westbrook coming from behind to stuff Durant, then Durant returning the favor (with some help from Draymond Green).
But as often happens in these types of games, the result didn't meet the hype. The game itself was somewhat of a backdrop to the Westbrook-Durant showdown in how they interacted. Westbrook entered the building wearing a black bandana and an orange vest that read "Official Photographer." He got it in Madrid when the Thunder were there for preseason games, asking a photographer if he could have it. It seemed there was a deeper meaning, possibly in that one of Durant's primary hobbies is photography. Westbrook denied it, saying, "I don't wear anything for nobody. I wear what I want to wear when I want to wear it."
Westbrook specializes in clever subtlety, and directly mocking Durant's photography isn't really his style. What's more likely, as suggested by someone with insight into his thinking, is it was a nod to Durant's post on the Players' Tribune in which he took pictures at Super Bowl 50 last February. After playing the Warriors on a Saturday night, Durant stayed over in the Bay Area to attend the Super Bowl that Sunday and spent time with some Warriors players, which is when some believe the official recruitment process began.
Subversive fashion choices aside, Westbrook and the Thunder endured a difficult night, watching as Durant keyed the offensive wave that put them away. Enes Kanter chirped from the bench at Durant, but like the Thunder's chances, it was futile. As Durant coldly pointed out postgame, "How many minutes did he play?" (Three is the answer.) With each snarl, with each roar, with each staredown, the reaction was to cringe as Durant carved up his former team and let them know all about it.
But it was uncomfortable even an hour before tipoff when Durant finally emerged from the locker room to go through his pregame routine. With ear buds snugged in tight, Durant was locked in on his side of the floor. Some 80 feet away, the teammate he spent longer with than anyone else, Nick Collison, went through his own warm-up. Outside of an awkward glance to see if the other was looking, they never acknowledged each other.
Both teams were happy to move on from this one. They spent the buildup pitching everyone on it being one game, but the emotions and intensity were obvious. Warriors coach Steve Kerr erupted on the sideline in the opening minutes, chasing referee Brian Forte to midcourt. Green picked up a technical foul for taunting after combo-blocking that Westbrook shot. The players jawed and chirped for much of the first half.
The Thunder got run, but they really weren't all that bothered after the game. Westbrook slipped back on his bandanna and vest and answered questions with a generally chipper disposition. "It's one game, one loss for us," he said. "We'll move on and get ready for the next one." In reality, the Thunder are probably screaming with happiness on the inside to open the first five games at 4-1. They had no real idea of who they were and what they were going to be entering the season, and beating the Clippers on Wednesday was solid validation that their first three games against lesser opponents wasn't a mirage. They've rallied around Westbrook's style, but it couldn't hold up on the second night of a back-to-back against the mighty Warriors.
This Thunder team isn't about making a statement, because there isn't one to make. They aren't competing for a title this season (unless some breaks really go their way), instead focusing on recalibrating, transitioning and adjusting to post-Durant life. Make no mistake: Westbrook and the Thunder badly wanted to win against Durant. It would've been a sugary sweet taste to enjoy for a few days, but they probably aren't winning the long game anyway this season.
Now they have it behind them. They played against Durant, saw him in a Warriors uniform, watched him celebrate and smile, and then they left. They will see Durant's Warriors three more times, but the first-meeting questions are over. They didn't talk. They didn't shake hands. They didn't make up. They played a basketball game, and the Warriors won impressively. As Westbrook said, now it's on to the next one.