In hostile territory, ex-Thunder pours 34 to power Warriors
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Kevin Durant was in hostile territory as he returned to Oklahoma City on Saturday, but shut out the noise to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 130-114 victory over his former team the Thunder.
Durant scored 34 points and pulled down nine rebounds in his first game in Oklahoma City since he departed as a free agent for Golden State after last season.
The jeers and catcalls greeted him at pre-game warm-ups and didn’t let up until the Warriors had stretched their league-leading record to 46-8.
‘’It was a fun game,’’ Durant said. ‘’I actually thought it would be a little louder. To be on the other side of it, to be able to calm all these guys down as they boo you is kind of fun.
‘’I’ve got to embrace it,’’ Durant added. ‘’That’s all I can do. And keep playing my game.’’
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson scored 26 points each for the Warriors, who withstood a 47-point performance from Russell Westbrook, once the other half of a star duo with Durant in Oklahoma.
The two traded a couple of on-court barbs, which Durant passed off as normal trash talk, and despite the palpable tension Warriors coach Steve Kerr said it wasn’t the worst such reception he’d seen from fans for a former favorite.
That was the greeting LeBron James got in Cleveland in 2010, after he’d departed for the Miami Heat.
‘’I think that one might have been a little nastier,’’ Kerr said.
After winning two titles in Miami, James famously returned to Cleveland and led the Cavaliers to last season’s championship.
He was in full flight on Saturday, scoring 27 points in the Cavs’s 125-109 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
‘’It’s transition three. It’s layup. It’s dunk,’’ Nuggets coach Mike Malone, an assistant coach in Cleveland during James’s first tenure with his hometown team, said of the weapons at the disposal of James and his skilled supporting cast of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
‘’The next you know it’s ‘Oh my gosh, you’re down by 20 points… It’s tough when you have a three-headed monster, which they do.’’
Irving added 27 points of his own and Love scored 16 for Cleveland, who led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter.
After a tight first half, the Cavaliers scored the first 18 points of the third. Denver missed their first seven shots of the second half and turned the ball over twice as Cleveland surged ahead.
The relatively easy victory meant Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue could get James some rest after 33 minutes of playing time. James played more than 40 in Thursday’s defeat at Oklahoma City.
‘’A lot of times if he wants to play, I can’t stop him from playing,’’ Lue said.