Kevin Du­rant gets the best of the Thun­der in his re­turn to Ok­la­homa City.

WAR­RIORS 130, THUN­DER 114

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY TIM BONTEMPS tim.bontemps@wash­post.com

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.

LARRY W. SMITH/EURO­PEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Golden State’s Kevin Du­rant tries to block the shot of for­mer Ok­la­homa City team­mate Rus­sell West­brook.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.