Arena: Kevin Durant vs Everyone
When Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Golden State Superteam, there was some relentless criticism directed at the superstar. But, he knew that going into it. He was prepared for the rebellion by OKC fans, the commentators who claimed he was chasing a ring, and the players who gave sarcastic shrugs. Above all, Kevin Durant ignited a rivalry between him and Westbrook that took away any potential for fostering a friendship. When KD made the move that changed the basketball world, he shot Westbrook a quick text. That was enough to end to create overwhelming tension and they reportedly have not talked since. Through all of the drama and speculation, Westbrook remained focused on the game. He started the season strong, carrying the Thunder in his new leadership position. In typical Westbrook fashion, he responded to the adjustment with a slew of triple doubles and an early performance that led others to project unbelievable stats for the star PG.
But when the two finally met after months of unsettling tension, one proved to be an unstoppable force, while the other dissipated under pressure. I marked my calendar for months. November 3: Thunder vs Warriors .. aka, the anticipated matchup between Kevin Durant and his former backcourt confidant Russell Westbrook. Their unsettled business resulted in drawn out media driven tension, branded as the game of the season. Days before the rivalry, social media erupted with buzz about who would come out on top. Snapchat even had a comical video of opposing fans across the country trash talking prior to the game. The projections begun. Westbrook is a stud, he would do his thing. As an unstoppable force with a chip on his shoulder, he would drive to the basket, get Adams going in the paint, and silence Oracle Arena. But, wait, how could you challenge Durant - the former MVP, playing alongside a number of stars. He was ready to make a statement in his glorious post-Thunder era, proving to be a fiery competitor. And the unanimous forecast: it would be a crazy fourth-quarter battle.
Minutes before the game, there was tension in the air and an early twitter frenzy narrating the contest. Many people speculated that the bitterness started before the game, when Westbrook arrived in unusual attire. The star wore a shirt that said "Official Photographer", which was believed to be a mark against Durant, whose favorite hobbies include photography. Of course Westbrook later shrugged off the comments, but it quickly created yet another headline to vilify the competition. When the two stepped onto the court, neither of them looked in each other's direction and thus, the rivalry officially began. The first quarter stirred up some interest, ending in a one point lead by OKC. However, during the second quarter, they hit rock bottom, with the Warriors outscoring them 37-11. It was brutal and certainly unexpected. Westbrook started taking crazy shots, hoping to draw the foul, but was caught off guard. Kerr undoubtedly got into his head, double teaming him throughout the night and cutting off that quick first step we all relish. Looking for calls and hopelessly trying to get to the rim, Westbrook's anticipated reign ended early. He remained relatively level headed, despite the frustrating offensive struggles.
And cue the drama. Some trash talking erupted between two unlikely competitors. Enes Kanter began jawing with Kevin Durant in the second quarter. There was only one problem: Kanter was on the bench and his team was losing by 23 points. Probably not the best timing. KD was fired up and had no problem exchanging words with his former teammate, while having one of the best games of his career. Thankfully, Adams shut that down quick before things could escalate. The Warriors closed out the game with a 122-96 victory, handing OKC their first loss of the season in crushing fashion. In a post game interview, the Thunder's leading scorer had no problem showing his dominance in the face of a challenge.
"I’m going to go out there and be who I am. If you talk, I’ll talk back. I don’t really say much, but if you start it, I’ll finish it," Durant said.
And that's just what he did. Durant commanded the arena, finishing the game with 39 points, including seven 3-pointers. Westbrook scored a mere 20 points, drifting from his usual offensive dominance as one of the guys that leads the league in scoring. Westbrook came out with his gloves on, but an early knockout set the tone for the rest of the season.