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Kevin Durant drops 39 on Westbrook, Thunder as Warriors win 122-96

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It started without much of anything, really. No handshake. No fistbump. No acknowledgement. Just a tip between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder to quietly start the most anticipated game of the season as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant faced off as foes for the first time.

The Warriors began slow, mismanaging their gameplan save for Durant, who had 13 points in the first quarter. Oklahoma City played as well as could be asked of them given the raucous crowd at Oracle Arena, but by early in the second quarter Golden State opened up a massive lead as Westbrook sat on the bench.

From that point on, there wasn’t much Westbrook or the Thunder could do to stop the four-time NBA scoring champion. Durant was everywhere — pouring in long-range threes, slashing to the lane, and talking smack to supporting members of the Oklahoma City roster.

At one point, Durant and Westbrook exchanged vicious blocks on each other that almost made you think the game wasn’t ridiculously out of hand. But it was, 68-43, at halftime in favor of the Warriors.

Durant had 29 points on 17 shots while Westbrook struggled on just 3-of-13 shooting after two quarters. The Thunder couldn’t seem to lend a hand to Westbrook, who remained surprisingly reserved given the circumstances. Only a few times did Westbrook force it, instead deciding to pass genially and with frequency in order to supply his teammates with opportunities.

Then came a clear shift.

After the second half started, Westbrook still raced up and down the floor to start the break, but instead of attacking he began passing by the time he got to the 3-point line. He defaulted to his teammates too early and too often. Maybe because he believed in them, or maybe because he wanted them to take some of the blame. It seemed as though he had purposely faded into the background.

Meanwhile, it seemed Durant was determined, with the help of this game, to steer the national conversation away from what it has been this year. Up nearly 30 points, Durant stayed on the floor for the Warriors until the 6:41 mark in the fourth quarter, playing with Steve Kerr’s bench unit. He needed it to be definitive.

Durant — long the quiet, humble star next to Westbrook’s raging, spinning asteroid — had the narrative flipped on his head. Somehow, Durant’s move to Oakland made Westbrook the sympathetic figure. The lanky 7-footer didn’t seem to like that very much, so he went out focused on to burying the Thunder. He succeeded, but I don’t think Durant changed the narrative.

Golden State would go on to beat Oklahoma City, 122-96. Durant had 39 points on 15-of-24 shooting, adding seven rebounds, one assist and one block. Westbrook wasn’t even the highest scorer for the Thunder, an honor that went to Victor Oladipo. The Thunder point guard went 4-of-15 from the field to match 10 assists, six turnovers, two blocks and one steal.

After an embarrassing stumble against the San Antonio Spurs to start the season, the Warriors have counterbalanced and appear to be, as it were, who we thought they were.

They clobbered Portland on Tuesday during a game in which Damian Lillard was in mid-season form. They slammed the Thunder, a projected playoff team by many, on Thursday. They are a Superteam™. I’m not sure that absolves Durant in the public eye.

If anything, destroying the newly branded anti-anti-hero in Westbrook with such force confirms the rest of the NBA’s fears about Golden State. That is, they are a team so powerful when fully integrated that not even Adam Silver thinks they should exist. That basketball, for us mere mortals, may be a futile exercise. That when the gods have decided they are bored in five or six years time, that we may have it back.

Until then, this looks like the Warriors’ league. We thought it would be this way. We even thought it might come this soon. But there were doubts. Doubts that they would have chemistry issues a la The Big 3 in Miami. That we could call upon lone heroes — the Lillards, Westbrooks, and James Hardens of this earth — to make them bleed.

In Westbrook, Durant helped slay at least one gladiator. When he left the court, it was the same as how it started: No handshake. No fistbump. No acknowledgement.

Just a win, and a dangerously waning hope for the rest of the NBA.

Harassment charges against Lakers’ DeMarcus Cousins reportedly dropped

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DeMarcus Cousins got married this past summer, but his 7-year-old son didn’t attend the wedding due to a dispute with the boy’s mother and Cousin’s ex-girlfriend, Christy West. That blew up into an ugly situation where Cousins was ultimately charged in Alabama with a third-degree harassing communications misdemeanor, tied to the domestic situation.

Now, those charges have been dismissed, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Cousins remains out for the Lakers after tearing his ACL this past summer, and he is not expected to return. Because of the surprisingly good play of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee — particularly as mobile defenders who can show out on the perimeter and recover — the Lakers have not missed Cousins’ presence.

I have no specific knowledge of this case or the truth of what happened between Cousins and his ex. As far as I know, there was nothing to this and should have been dismissed.

However, as someone who spent a chunk of years on a police/courts beat as a young reporter, I feel the need to add this: Domestic violence/harassment cases are exceedingly difficult to prosecute. It can be a he said/she said situation, and unfortunately, often the abused women recant their testimony (whether it was true or not). The situations are a complex mix of emotions and fear, ones that make getting justice difficult. Talk to any prosecutor (or long-time police beat officer) about domestic violence cases and they will tell you horrifying stories. It is a situation that, as a nation, we need to address.

High schoolers Bronny James, Zaire Wade have more national TV games than many NBA teams

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The Wizards are entertaining in their own special way.

Washington games have averaged 241 points this season (120 for the Wizards, 121 for their opponents). That’s the highest mark in nearly two decades. The 1990-91 Nuggets scored 120 while allowing 131 points per game.

But Washington rarely gets nationally televised games.

On the other hand, Sierra Canyon School – which features Bronny James (son of LeBron James) and Zaire Wade (son of Dwyane Wade) – will have plenty of nationally televised games. That drew the attention of at least one Wizard.

Isaiah Thomas:

Of course, the Wizards aren’t alone in getting less national exposure than Bronny and Zaire. On the latest, “Off the Dribble,” Jacques Slade gets into all the NBA teams and stars on national television less often than Sierra Canyon. (For more, watch the video above where Slade also gets into Carmelo Anthony’s Blazers debut.)

The good news: Wizards games can still be found on NBC Sports Washington.

Danny Ainge: Celtics fans shouldn’t boo Kyrie Irving

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Kyrie Irving, if he gets healthy, will return to Boston with the Nets on Wednesday.

How will he be received?

Celtics president Danny Ainge said he doesn’t handle game operations, but if it were up to him, Irving would get a tribute video. It was pointed out fans would boo throughout the video.

Ainge on 98.5 The Sports Hub, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:

“I understand all that. I just think it’s a bad conclusion to come to. It’s not really fair.”

“I think that’s a sad commentary,” Ainge said. “But I understand it just because I know there’s been a lot of negative attention.”

“It was a very good situation with Kyrie,” Ainge said. “Kyrie was in a good place, and things were looking good for a year and a half and they went sour.

“… He gets blamed for a lot of the sour of last year, and I just think it’s much, much bigger than that. So, I don’t have any grudges against Kyrie. I’m grateful that he gave us a chance and it didn’t work out. It wasn’t his fault things didn’t work out. It was a lot of people’s fault, including my own.”

Boston fans should boo the hell out of Kyrie Irving. He pledged to re-sign, brooded through last season, selfdestructed at the end then left.

There might have been legitimate personal stressors in his life. We can still have compassion for Irving as a human being.

But as a character in the NBA’s great drama, he is absolutely a villain in Boston.

Celtics fans should get at least a night to treat him accordingly.

Report: Knicks lured David Fizdale with plan of signing marquee free agents

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The Knicks have recently oscillated between patiently rebuilding around young players and chasing stars.

When hiring David Fizdale as coach last year, New York was apparently focused on the latter plan.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fizdale had other offers.

They pitched him on they were going to go out and get big-time free agents.

Fizdale might have looked like the type of coach stars want. When the Grizzlies fired him, several big-name players – including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Damian Lillardshowed support. But it was always a foolish idea to hire a coach based on his ability to lure stars. It’s such a minor factor for elite free agents.

It was also absurd to view Fizdale as clear attraction to stars. He connected to stars as an assistant coach with the Heat. When he became a head coach, changing the nature of the coach-player relationship, he feuded with then-Memphis star Marc Gasol.

The Knicks needed a good coach. Maybe they hired Fizdale for the right reasons. Maybe not.

But the execution of their pitch has fallen flat. New York struck out on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard last summer. The Knicks also didn’t trade for Anthony Davis.

Fizdale is stuck losing with a lackluster roster. As a result, his job is in jeopardy.

He deserves some culpability for trusting a Jim Dolan-Steve Mills regime to actually land stars. New York’s mismanagement is well-known throughout the league.

If Fizdale had other offers and chose the Knicks, that’s on him.