Before November in this season that has everyone in the NBA not talking Heat but talking Thunder, Oklahoma City's neophytes learned a valuable lesson downtown.
The West remains the West.
The Eastern Conference can shuffle superstars and pilfer the likes of Carlos Boozer and Amar'e Stoudemire, but the depth of power still is on this side of the Mississippi.
The Utah Jazz, for example.
Those who counted the Jazz among fallen Western contenders were rebuffed Sunday night. The Jazz took the Thunder to the woodshed, 120-99 in a game that was a blowout the entire second half.
Just because America has fallen hard for the Thunder, anointing our heroes as the chief threat to the Laker reign, doesn't mean the Blazers and the Nuggets and the Spurs and the Mavs and the Rockets and the Suns and the Hornets are on board.
The Jazz, who arrived in town 0-2, hasn't signed the petition, either.
"They still have Coach Sloan, right?" asked Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "They're going to be successful."
Jerry Sloan's teams don't fade from contention. Utah still has primo point guard Deron Williams, plus a cast of fascinating role players, and the Jazz might be better off without Boozer, whose exodus to Chicago just paved the way for the addition of center Al Jefferson, a rare low-post scorer, and more playing time for Paul Millsap.
The Thunder got butchered inside; Jefferson and Millsap combined for 53 points, 26 rebounds and 18-of-33 shooting. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum never carved up OKC like this.
You occasionally can coast past Utah. Minnesota, Sacramento, Golden State, maybe even Memphis and the Clippers. But not Utah.
Perhaps the Boomers forgot who they were playing.
"We didn't have any energy," Kevin Durant said. "They jumped right on us. We waited too long to fight back."
Call it energy, call it urgency, whatever it was, it was missing in the first half.
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