The first ever matchup featuring Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on opposing teams lacked the lighting and thunder most people expected. To say the least, it was a pretty uneventful, old-fashioned beat down. The Warriors put the Thunder back in their place, punching in a commanding 122-96 victory, and Kevin Durant scored his career-high with the Warriors, 39 points. Here are some quick takeaways from part one of this
Westbrook-Durant Oklahoma City Thunder/Golden State Warriors matchup.
Durant’s teammates were more fired up for this matchup than Westbrook’s teammates.
Draymond Green made it very clear about his team’s stance on trying to get a win for KD:
“I think it’ll be a lot of emotions. They’re going to want to beat him really bad. He’s going to want to beat them really bad. In turn, we’re going to want to beat them really bad because we want him to beat them really bad. It’ll be a lot of emotions, but it’ll be a fun game to play in. It’s always a high-intensity game against them and I expect nothing less.”
There was essentially crickets on OKC’s end. This intensity that Green spoke of before the game led to a spirited defensive effort; many possessions left Westbrook running into three defenders and coughing up a turnover.
Zaza Pachulia played his increasing role of enforcer, getting tangled up with Adams early on in the contest. Steve Kerr got a tech in the first quarter. Green got a tech for for yelling after Durant thew down a big dunk. Clearly, having an emotional investment in this game served a greater purpose than Westbrook taking the stance of “I play every game the same”, which while true, can be a gift and a curse.
Enes Kanter tried to get his Joakim Noah on.
Enes Kanter did some jawing from the bench yesterday, and seemed to be perturbed by having no choice but to soak in a thrashing from his ex-teammate on the bench. Kanter was very vocal about Durant leaving OKC in the summer and at least you can credit him here for being consistent. But the trash talking from the bench is such a bad look; you at least need to be in the game…
Durant tied the most points scored in a player’s first game against their former team in league history.
Durant was extra amped up for this game. He most likely had it circled on his calendar back in the summer when the backlash started to befuddle him. Last night served as Durant’s real coming out party, establishing himself as the Warrior’s most dynamic scorer. After last season, I’m sure no one thought it was possible to make Curry’s game look less dazzling but Durant has achieved just that.
Curry put up a very quiet 21 points, (7 of those coming from the free throw line), and didn’t have to do much else. Durant carried that heavy lifting, scoring essentially half of Golden State’s points in the first half. Once this team hits its offensive stride, which shockingly it’s not even close to yet, those unstoppable sentiments will really come to light.
Part 3 of this matchup might be a lot more interesting than the first (or even second).
Russell Westbrook had a very frustrating game. As stated earlier, he constantly ran into brick walls on defense, had 6 turnovers, and never really got into a rhythm in the game. Although he flirted with another triple-double, he shot 26% from the field. After the game, Westbrook had this to say about the Warriors:
“The Warriors were doing a lot of trash talking. Apparently I guess they talk a lot of trash now. You know, we’ll see how that goes. But you know, we’ll get ready for the next game. This is one game, one loss for us. We move on, and get ready for the next one. … We’ll see them again.”
Russell Westbrook returns to Oakland on Jan 18 for part 2 of this series, but the real treat will be Feb 11th, 2017 when Durant returns to OKC for the first time. OKC has some extremely passionate fans and Durant will have to adjust to the emotions of playing in a building he used to call home that has been converted to a home of hostility. It’s a very different than being in the comfort of Golden State’s home crowd and something tells me OKC will be more emotionally invested in that game.