Serge Ibaka had just supplied the stop of the season, and yet Russell Westbrook was woofing at him like he had done something wrong.
But Westbrook was only trying to help.
As Ibaka secured the ball immediately after blocking Denver guard Arron Afflalo's shot last Sunday, Westbrook shouted to Ibaka to get the ball to Kevin Durant, pointing frantically to the Thunder's best foul shooter. By sinking two, Durant could extend the team's lead to six with 20 seconds remaining and help Oklahoma City survive an overtime thriller.
With just one, Durant would reach the 50-point plateau for the first time — and Westbrook knew it.
Much of the past month has been filled with similarly telling moments, in-game tidbits that have revealed the true relationship between Durant and Westbrook. Last weekend's NBA All-Star gala only helped to build that bond.
Sharing their second straight All-Star Game experience, the Thunder's dynamic duo spent the weekend praising and supporting each other. And if you've watched closely over the past month, you know it wasn't only for the worldwide audience looking in on the activities in Orlando, Fla.
At Friday's media day session, Durant and Westbrook unknowingly took turns lobbing compliments. They sat at opposite ends of the room. But when Durant was asked which player is the league's best in-game dunker, his response — after excluding L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin's dunks for being “not real” — was Westbrook.
“I'm not going to put him in the conversation,” Durant said of Griffin. “I'm going to say Russell. He'll surprise you and just jog down the lane but then float and dunk. The stuff he's doing is unreal. There are times I just sit back and watch as just smile at his athleticism because it's video-game like.”
Westbrook repeatedly returned the respect.
When the Thunder's point guard was asked who is the league's most clutch player, he said Durant.
When Westbrook was asked who the league's toughest player to cover is, regardless of position, he said Durant.
And even when answering a Jeremy Lin inspired question about which teammate's couch he'd prefer to sleep on if he had to, Westbrook again went with Durant.
“He's got the biggest house,” Westbrook said.
The chemistry and camaraderie between Westbrook and Durant throughout All-Star Weekend was unmistakable, whether on the court or off it. It seems it will only improve at this point and help propel the Thunder in the second half of the season.
Then again, things never have been toxic between the two, as some national pundits have portrayed their relationship. Still, that negativity no doubt has built a stronger bond.
With reporters asking about their relationship at every stop early this season, Westbrook and Durant grew closer in the face of shared adversity. Now, they're supporting each other more frequently in palpable ways.
When Westbrook rolled his right ankle and had to leave the game against Golden State on Feb. 17, Durant strolled over and stuck out his hand to help him off the court.
In that classic Nuggets game a night later, Westbrook tried settling down the crowd as Durant stood at the stripe for the first of his two free throw attempts in search of 50. Westbrook was then the first to walk over and congratulate Durant by giving him five.
Between annihilating the Nuggets with his own scoring, Durant gave a fist pump at nearly every basket Westbrook scored that night. The explosive point guard finished with 40. And even after finishing with a career-high 51 points, Durant deferred credit to Westbrook.
“A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime,” he said.