For the first 47 minutes, Sunday night's US Fleet Tracking Basketball Invitational hosted by Kevin Durant was an NBA exhibition game during which little defense was exhibited.
In the 48th minute, however, the crowd rose to its feet, and a lighthearted competition suddenly turned serious.
A closing flurry in regulation forced overtime, and the end result was Durant's White Team posting a 176-171 victory over the Blue Team before a near-sellout crowd of 13,000 inside the Cox Convention Center.
Though the NBA lockout was in Day 115, on this night there were no catcalls directed toward players. Fans screamed for autographs. Cellphone cameras were all the rage. No one left early and the players left to a standing ovation.
“I knew this was going to be a hit, especially here in Oklahoma City,” Durant said. “I was excited I got this opportunity to do it. A lot of people came out and showed love. All the players who came here didn't have to. They sacrificed their time to come play the game. We just wanted to show the fans we still love them and we still continue to play the game no matter what.
“I was happy with the turnout.”
The final sequence of regulation involved all three Thunder participants.
With 54.3 seconds left, James Harden buried a 3-pointer with the shot clock at :02 to give the Blue a 159-158 advantage.
With 33.0 seconds left, Russell Westbrook snared an offensive rebound and passed back out to Durant, who drilled a 3-pointer with 30.4 seconds left to give the White a 161-159 advantage.
With 13.1 seconds left, Carmelo Anthony hit a reverse layup against LeBron James to tie the score at 161.
With 0.7 seconds left, Durant missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer and former Thunder forward Jeff Green missed an acrobatic follow-up slam at the buzzer.
Durant finished with a triple-double for the White with 42 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists. James had 40 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook had 34 points, 13 rebounds and eight high-flying dunks. Green had 21 points and eight assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
“It felt like it was a real NBA game,” Durant said. “The players played hard and we enjoyed ourselves.”
For the Blue Team, Michael Beasley had 56 points, Anthony had 43 points and 10 rebounds and Harden had 33 points and 13 rebounds.
Chris Paul, who played his first two seasons in Oklahoma City with the displaced New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina, had an impressive triple-double of 25 assists, 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue.
“I talk to KD pretty often,” Paul said. “He knows how I feel about Oklahoma City. It's always fun to come back here.”
Durant and Paul shook their heads when asked when the league's new collective bargaining agreement might be solved.
Will the NBA be up and running by Christmas?
“Um, I wish,” Durant said. “I really can't say right now.”
The Thunder's home arena across the street is newly named, freshly refurbished but empty on scheduled game nights.
“Hopefully, we can get something going across the street at the Chesapeake Arena soon,” Durant said.
Until a new CBA is in place, exhibition games will have to do.
“As you can see in these games we've been playing, we love to play the game,” Paul said. “We're going to find a way to play any way possible. We just want to keep giving our fans an opportunity to see us. If not for the fans, we're not who we are. We just want them to know we still want to keep working toward a deal.
“It's not just about us, it's about the fans. It's about the employees, all the people that make our game happen. So we want to play. Just make sure everyone understands that.”
When the 6-foot-9 Durant missed the potential game-winner at the end of regulation, he was being guarded by the 6-foot Paul.
“Oh, it's always a competition,” Paul said with a smile. “KD asked me why I was guarding him. (It's) because I'm not going to let him shoot it. I want to win. It's unbelievable. Guys don't get paid to play in these games. Guys came out here because of how much respect they have for KD and what he does for the community, the kids and giving back. It's all about what he's doing and guys want to come out and be a part of it.”
WHITE TEAM 176
BLUE TEAM 171
Percentages: FG .533, FT .813. 3-Point Goals: 14-41, .341 (Anthony 5-9, Harden 6-17, Wilkins 1-3, Paul 2-7, Beasley 0-2, Flynn 0-3). Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 9 (Paul 4, Anthony 2, Flynn 2). Steals: 10 (Paul 3, Flynn 2, Harden 2, Beasley 2, Anthony 1).