OAKLAND – Kevin Durant spent the past three days doing all he could to hide his emotions and downplay the significance of facing his former team.
Even when the ball tipped off for Warriors-Thunder on Thursday night, Durant’s face was as blank as a blue sky.
Beneath the calm exterior, though, there was a lot of emotion.
“It was before the tip,” Durant said. “As soon as the game started, it brought back some memories.
“But after that, it was back to business.”
Business was good for Durant. He opened the scoring for the Warriors, draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key 41 seconds into the game. He then went silent for a while, taking a brief rest midway through the quarter, and then returning with 3:37 left in the quarter.
That’s when Durant woke up – and spent the rest of the night torturing Oklahoma City, pouring in a season-high 39 points in a 122-96 thrashing of the Thunder.
There was a visible change in Durant’s demeanor after he was dunked on by OKC forward Jerami Grant with three minutes left in the quarter. Grant then made the unwise decision to get noisy while glaring at his victim.
“That’s not a good idea,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Grant’s bold move. “I think that did get him going a little bit.”
Durant’s expression changed into a mask of intensity and he proceeded to go off. He found another gear, scoring 15 points in less than four minutes. The Warriors during that time went from 10 points down to a six-point lead. They never trailed again.
This was the furious Durant, and he was on a mission to destroy his former teammates, from his longtime friend and teammate Russell Westbrook to Enes Kanter – who did plenty of yakking from the bench – to Grant.
“When you get dunked on like that, you want to come back,” Durant said. “As a competitor, you just want to come back at him and try to make a play, try to ignite the team. He ignited his team with that dunk, and I just tried to do the same throughout the whole game.
“Over the course of the game, I try to make plays throughout the whole game . . . and try to get them back that way. It definitely sparked us a bit.”
Asked what Grant said, Durant said the chatter actually came from Grant’s Thunder teammates.
“He just stared me down,” Durant said of Grant. “Everybody else was talking.”
Durant’s final line: 39 points (15-of-24 from the field, 7-of-11 beyond the arc), seven rebounds, one block and one assist. He played 31 minutes and finished plus-21 for the night.
Moreover, he made it clear he has moved beyond his OKC days and wishes others would follow his lead.
“I’ve been in the zone where I’ve just tried to look forward and think about the team I’m on and trying to be better and trying to work hard for this team and my teammates,” Durant said. “Everybody else has been stuck on the past, and is trying to bring me back with them.
“It’s hard when you get questions about it and you hear about it and friends and family ask you about it,” he added. “But I’ve been trying to look forward since I got here. Everybody else on the outside has been trying ot pull me back. I’ve just got to stay focused.”