Kevin Durant gets the best of the Thunder in his return to Oklahoma City.
WARRIORS 130, THUNDER 114
In front of hostile crowd, he finishes with 34 points
oklahoma city — As Kevin Durant’s return to the city where he had spent the previous eight years of his NBA career was winding down, he found himself with the ball 30 feet from the basket, and with Russell Westbrook — his costar for every moment he spent here — standing right in front of him.
Durant rose up and fired away a silky-smooth jumper, just as he had so many times before on this court inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. And, like it had so many times before, the ball soared in a perfect arc directly from his hand and right through the net without touching anything else, as Durant stood and defiantly admired his work.
For the previous eight years, such a shot would have been met with a deafening roar from the sellout crowd inside this arena. But on this night, with Durant wearing a blue-and-gold Warriors jersey, the shot was instead met with silence, the final dagger that once and for all muted the boos Durant was met with every time he touched the ball throughout the game.
And for as much as the hometown fans tried to give life and energy to their team, the result was the only one that ever seemed likely: Durant and the Warriors cruising to a comfortable 130-114 victory over the Thunder that once again reminded everyone in attendance how much things had changed since these franchises last met here in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals last May.
“It was a fun game, physical,” Durant told ABC’s Lisa Salters on the court after the game. “Both teams played hard.
“I thought it would be a little louder. I was on the other side of it, to be one of the guys who gets booed. I just got to embrace it.”
This game may have been largely uncompetitive, with Golden State flirting with a 20-point lead for the final three quarters, but it certainly didn’t lack for drama. That was particularly true after halftime, when the game was comfortably out of hand but still had the feel of a postseason contest in terms of intensity and physicality.
The extra curriculars began with something basketball fans have been waiting for ever since Durant chose to leave Oklahoma City last summer: an on-court showdown between Durant and Westbrook. Shortly after Westbrook had drawn a three-shot foul on Durant midway through the third quarter, the two of them got into it at center court at a stoppage in play with 4:25 left in the third. They kept yapping at each other all the way back to their respective benches.
A few hours earlier, during his press availability after the Thunder’s morning shoot-around, Westbrook had talked openly about his relationship with Durant for the first time since Durant left Oklahoma City last summer.
“You know, we grew up here together,” Westbrook said. “And you know, since then decisions have been made on what’s best for him and his future, and I made a decision that was best for mine, and that’s just how it’s been.”
The chatter during the stoppage in play was only the appetizer to what became the main course a few minutes later, when Durant took exception to a hard foul by Andre Roberson and said something to him about it. The two then went head to head and nose to nose, even making contact with one another and continuing to jaw away before eventually being separated and given offsetting technical fouls for their trouble.
“It’s all in the game,” Durant said. “It’s part of the game, and I just respect that. Hard fouls, talking, that’s all part of the game.”
Although there was some Golden State paraphernalia scattered throughout the crowd, the crowd was understandably and expectedly anti-Durant, and it showed how it felt in a variety of amusing ways. Most of them centered on a theme off a social-media post by Westbrook shortly after Durant’s decision was announced July 4 of a bunch of cupcakes — a moniker Thunder players had come up with for soft players.
So, not surprisingly, there were plenty of cupcakes on display Saturday night. They were on T-shirts throughout the building, including many in the front rows. They were on signs. There was someone wandering around in a full cupcake costume, with Durant’s No. 35 planted on top of it (in case anyone was confused who it was referring to). There was even a fan positioned next to Golden State’s bench in a T-shirt with “KOWARD” emblazoned across the chest who got into it with several players throughout the game, including Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
In a sign of solidarity, the Warriors all got their hands on cupcake T-shirts postgame. Green and Curry wore them to their postgame interviews in front of several rows of cameras and microphones outside the visiting locker room.
“They did?” Durant asked about his teammates. “That’s pretty cool, I guess.”
In the end, though, the drama had little to do with the actual play on the court. While the Thunder gamely tried to keep things competitive, the Warriors simply were too much for Oklahoma City, just as they had been in the previous two meetings the teams had this season in Oakland, Calif. Westbrook had his latest brilliant stat line, finishing with 47 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists (though he did have 11 turnovers).
But Golden State got 34 points and nine rebounds from Durant, while Stephen Curry had 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and Klay Thompson added 26 points of his own.
Most importantly, the Warriors left with a victory — just as they had in Game 6. The difference was that this time, Kevin Durant left victorious with them.
Golden State’s Kevin Durant tries to block the shot of former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook.