The day before the Thunder hosted Indiana, a certain topic of conversation was considered taboo inside the confines of Oklahoma City's practice facility.
It was rising star Paul George.
“KD don't want me answering this question,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins responded, in reference to Kevin Durant, when asked about the Pacers forward, “because he's getting tired of hearing about Paul George.”
George has become the league's newest darling, the best player on the NBA's best team and a player more and more observers are openly ranking a top three player — some even listing him ahead of Durant due to George's superior defensive ability.
So on Sunday night, in a highly anticipated battle of two of the league's best teams, a game within a game unfolded, as Durant went out of his way to remind everyone, especially George, exactly who he is.
The end result was the Thunder dismantling the top defensive team in basketball, with Durant leading the way behind a game-high 36 points in Oklahoma City's 118-94 victory inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“He came out with a vengeance,” Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said of Durant. “I think he's tired of hearing about it, too. Whatever got him going, though, I'm happy we got the win.”
The Thunder shot an opponent season-high 61 percent on the Pacers, who came to town hounding opponents into a league-best 39.8 percent shooting from the field. OKC's point total also was an opponent season high and marked just the fifth time the Pacers (18-3) allowed at least 100 points.
Durant later avoided adding any additional insight into his feelings about George.
“Anybody who's guarding me,” Durant said, “I take it personal.”
But for 35 minutes Sunday night, No. 35 let his play do the talking.
In the opening period, Durant erupted for 14 points, four fewer than the Pacers. He attacked at every opportunity, hoisting nine shots in the quarter, tying the most he's attempted in an opening frame this season. By halftime, Durant had launched 14 shots, the most he's attempted in the first 24 minutes this year.
He went right at George throughout, giving him a potent mix of fadeaways and turnarounds, pull-ups and post-ups.
George, after the game, called Durant his toughest matchup.
“It is,” George said. “It is a tougher matchup.”
The two didn't defend each other all night, but they were matched up for a lengthy stretch spanning the end of the first quarter into halftime.
By then, Durant sat on 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting.
George sat on six points on 2-for-7 shooting.
And the Thunder sat on a 19-point lead that soon swelled to as many as 29.
Durant added a game-high 10 rebounds and five assists while making 14 of 23 shots. George got going in the second half, developing a hot hand from behind the 3-point line and scoring 26 of his team-high 32 points in the final 24 minutes. Eighteen of those came in the third quarter.
But despite George's best efforts, the Pacers never got closer than 15 points.
And when Durant checked out for good with 3:58 left to play and the Thunder owning a 20-point lead, he turned to the media sitting behind the scorer's table and made one final statement.
“Write about that,” he howled.