OKLAHOMA CITY — It was the longest conversation the two superstars engaged in since Kevin Durant’s departure. At the time, the Golden State Warriors were up 18 on the Thunder with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left in Saturday’s third quarter.
That miniature exchange exemplified Durant’s frustration in playing alongside Russell Westbrook for those eight years with the Thunder. It was always, “I’m coming. I’m coming.” Meanwhile, the team wasn’t going anywhere.
Westbrook poured in a game-high 47 points to go with 11 boards and eight assists on Saturday. However, he turned the ball over 11 times, and the Warriors exited Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 130-114 victory.
Durant registered a team-high 34 points and nine rebounds. He’s averaging 37.7 points against the Thunder, and the Warriors are 3-0 against them on the season.
Saturday’s contest was one that lived up to the Westbrook-Durant billing. To everyone’s surprise, they had a few mano a mano situations.
A team source said Warriors coach Steve Kerr was the one who came up with the idea of switching Durant onto Westbrook in the middle of the third. Kerr had never before assigned Durant to a point guard. One of the players told ESPN it was a tactic that worked.
Westbrook couldn’t resist the urge to take it to his former teammate. The stage was too massive; the basketball world was salivating for it. He had to give the audience what it wanted.
According to Stats & Information data, Durant guarded Westbrook on a total of seven plays. Westbrook went 2-of-5 for eight points on those plays and committed one turnover.
The Warriors got Westbrook to go one-on-one instead of running the offense. Westbrook’s eight assists accounted for 19 points. But that was almost offset by his turnovers, which equated to 15 points for the Warriors, Stats & Information research.
Durant has seen how that movie ends on far too many occasions. He needed a change.
The constant disconnect on the court with the Thunder, particularly on the offensive end, began to wear on Durant mentally as early as their second season together, league sources told ESPN. Throughout his OKC tenure, Durant asked for more ball movement. At times, it looked like the Thunder might have turned the corner, but it was never sustained.
On sheer talent alone, Durant’s union with Westbrook instantly catapulted the Thunder to being one of the league’s best teams. But when going against a team with supreme talent and discipline, they were overmatched.
Durant desired continuity and teammates willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. After nine seasons with the franchise, he wasn’t convinced that would ever occur.
Durant and Westbrook were never the best of friends. They were good teammates, similar to good neighbors. It seemed Westbrook wanted the numbers; Durant wanted the wins.
It was always an internal clash, piled on top of the 82-game clash with the opposition. Their objectives were different, and for that reason, the pairing could no longer go on.
“He plays for his team, I play for my team,” Westbrook said. “Let him do his thing, I do my thing and that’s it. Plain and simple.”
On this night, Durant wasn’t shouting, “I’m coming.” He came and went with the victory. A divorce was necessary.