Saturday 20 January 2018 / 12:00 PM


We heard about it absolutely all offseason as Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors.

We heard over and over about the relationship between Durant and Russell Westbrook, and how it had finally boiled over. Westbrook took the road of ignoring the issue, while Durant flat out denied there was any bad blood.

And as the attention turned toward the 2016-17 season, Westbrook quietly took shots in the media while Durant continued to deflect and deny any animosity. As tonight’s GS v OKC clash crept closer and closer, the NBA world lit on fire about the potential matchup, and how Westbrook would take Durant on in heroic fashion.

It was a comic book showdown – something only Hollywood could build any bigger.

Every sports outlet was giving their take and making their predictions. Everyone was wondering how the fireworks would ignite as the two met for the first time. And as the week got started, Durant finally broke the ice by telling the media on Tuesday that there was no beef between he and Westbrook.

“It’s all fake, this stuff off the court. Me and Russ are fine… We’ll talk behind closed doors like men when the time comes,” Durant said.

But the response seemed forced and contrite, especially with the petty responses and comments by Westbrook all offseason. And as Westbrook arrived at Oracle Arena for the game, we were quickly made aware that ill feelings were far from fake between the two of them.

Westbrook showed up to the arena in a photographer’s shirt – a direct swipe at Durant’s shutterbug hobby – and immediately played it off in a sly manner.

Then, on the court before the game, Russ upped the antics even further by taking aim at Steph Curry, and mocking his three-point shot.

But after the tip-off, the mood was just a bit different. Things got started well enough for OKC, running out to a 10-point lead behind stellar play from Westbrook and a rough start from Durant and the Warriors.

The hot start was highlighted by a Jerami Grant dunk on KD that would earn the former Thunder star a stare-down and yells from the bench.

But then something amazing happened: Durant did what he’s always done. KD caught fire late in the first quarter, igniting from beyond the arc and burying threes at an alarming rate.

Durant rattled home six threes in the first half alone, pumping the Warriors out to a 22-3 run that would have them blister the Thunder 68-43 at halftime – with 29 points from Durant.

And then, in the third quarter, we got even more from the former MVP. Durant led the Warriors to another sweeping run in the third frame and the start of the fourth quarter, at one point leaving a score of 100-72. The Warriors crushed the Thunder in a way that not many should have been surprised by.

Westbrook finished a putrid 4 for 15 from the field, with 20 points and 10 assists – but six turnovers. Durant scored 39, with 7 rebounds on 7 for 11 from three and 15 for 24 from the field.

And before you blame things on Westbrook’s teammates, the Thunder shot 46% from the field excluding Russell. The marquee man shot 26%.

The loss was humbling for Westbrook, and for the portion of the NBA universe that hates Durant for his decision to leave OKC. But this game looked like a gel game for OKC, with the Warriors defending their guy. Draymond earned a technical for jawing with Westbrook following a KD dunk, and the chatter between benches kept the attention of the cameras all night.

It wasn’t hard to predict that OKC would be overmatched, but the sheer emotional nature of the night was palpable. While the game wasn’t particularly exciting, it’s unlikely that the tension between Durant and his former teammates is anywhere close to done.

But tonight, it was Durant’s time to have the laugh – something that Steven Adams hilariously conceded in the fourth quarter by asking Enes Kanter to kindly shut up.

Man, the NBA is fun.

[YouTube – NBA]

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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