Grudge Match Part 3: Kevin Durant Visits Russell Westbrook’s House

Matthew Jordan

Friday, February 10, 2017 3:51 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 3:51 PM UTC

One of the most anticipated games of the NBA season is Saturday night on national television (ABC) as the Golden State Warriors visit the Oklahoma City Thunder in Kevin Durant’s return to OKC. It won’t be pleasant for him.

Think of some of the most hyped returns in the NBA in recent years. This season alone, we had Dwyane Wade going back to Miami and Derrick Rose returning to Chicago. Those guys were welcomed fairly warmly. Wade never really wanted to leave south Florida, but the Heat low-balled him financially. Rose was the most popular Bull since Michael Jordan left town and grew up in the city so there were still some warm feelings in the Windy City for him. The Bulls traded Rose to the Knicks, he didn’t leave on his own.

Current Hawks center Dwight Howard gets booed whenever he returns to one of his former cities: Orlando, Houston or Los Angeles (Lakers). Howard also burned bridges in all those cities in skipping town as fast as possible.

Probably the most negative reaction of an NBA player returning to a former city in recent memory was LeBron James going back to Cleveland for the first time after signing with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. Those fans felt especially betrayed because James grew up not far from Cleveland. But he eventually returned and won a championship last year and all is well now.

That brings is to Saturday night when Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since leaving that young, championship-caliber team to join the powerhouse Warriors and form the NBA’s latest super-team. Durant will not be warmly welcomed whatsoever -- "I know they're going to be rowdy in there” -- as Thunder fans still can’t believe Durant left the only franchise he has ever known for the team that barely beat the Thunder in last year’s Western Conference Finals. In addition, Oklahoma City folks feel like they are one big family in a small town and that Durant bolted that family for the big-market glamorous Warriors.

Russell Westbrook clearly took that decision personally, and he still hasn’t talked to Durant since KD left. Westbrook seems to be driven this season by that anger as he attempts to become the second player in league history to average a triple-double for a full season.

I am fascinated to see Saturday’s game because Durant will want to play well in front of his former fans, and Westbrook will want to one-up his former superstar teammate and beat the hated Warriors in what is now his house. Golden State, which will be playing the second of a back-to-back after visiting Memphis on Friday, opened at -7 on NBA picks.

Durant and the Warriors have beaten the Thunder twice in Oakland this year, easily covering the NBA betting spread in both. On Nov. 3, Golden State rolled 122-96. Durant had 39 points and seven rebounds, while Westbrook was just 4-for-15 from the field for 20 points with six turnovers. On Jan. 18, the Warriors won 121-100. Durant had 40 points, and Westbrook had a triple-double of 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists.

In that Jan. 18 game, Westbrook was slammed to the ground on a screen by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia. He glared at Westbrook as he stood over him and received a flagrant foul. Pachulia admitted it was intentional and Westbrook said afterward: "I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up."

Except Pachulia is hurt and not expected to play Saturday. As if the game needed any more drama.

The Thunder might be a good bet here as the Warriors are just 1-7 ATS in their past eight in the second of a back-to-back. 

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