Long after the final buzzer sounded Saturday, signaling a five-point Thunder loss to Cleveland, forward Kevin Durant sat shirtless at his locker with an ice pack wrapped tightly around the right side of his midsection.
As his teammates showered, dressed and departed the visitor's locker room, Durant lingered, still seated and still visibly suffering from a third-quarter injury that the team diagnosed as a right rib contusion.
Cavs forward Alonzo Gee inadvertently kneed Durant in the back while driving to the basket with 6:04 left in the third quarter, causing Durant to briefly leave the game two minutes later. After returning to the bench moments later, Durant returned to the game with 9:55 remaining in the fourth and finished the game. Despite what appeared to be extreme discomfort, Durant downplayed the injury when asked about it.
“If I can play, I'm all right,” Durant said. “I was good. I came (back) in and played so that's all that matters.”
Durant's status for Monday's game against Dallas is uncertain. Durant has missed only 14 games in 5 1/2 seasons.
The team took Sunday off and did not practice. It's likely that Durant will be evaluated at Monday morning's shoot-around and possibly even be listed as a game-time decision if his pain and discomfort lingers.
“It's always a concern, but we'll see how he feels,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He was good enough to come back. He's fine. We're not going to put him out there if he's not ready to play the way that we need him to play. But he was fine.”
NOWITZKI'S STATUS UNCERTAIN DUE TO INJURY
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki has missed the Mavs' past two contests with a sore right hip. His status for Monday's game against the Thunder is uncertain.
Nowitzki has played in only 18 games this season. He missed the Mavs' first 27 while recovering from off-season knee surgery. He is currently averaging 14.8 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 42.5 percent, the lowest production in those statistical categories since his rookie season.
Dallas is 13-16 without Nowitzki this season and 7-11 with him.
ANOTHER THUNDER-MAVS THRILLER?
Each of the first two games between the Thunder and Mavs needed overtime to be decided. Oklahoma City prevailed in both, winning by six points inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Dec. 27 and three points at American Airlines Center on Jan. 18.
Round three of what is shaping up to be a slugfest of a four-game season series is Monday at 7 p.m.
“We always play each other tough,” Brooks said. “It's very physical. They challenge us. We challenge them. Nobody backs down. It's always a great game.”
Durant scored a career-high 52 points against the Mavs in the last meeting and is averaging 46 points and 8.5 rebounds in the two games against Dallas.
Mavs point guard Darren Collison has averaged 23.5 points against the Thunder this season and hit an improbable, one-handed shot to force overtime in the first meeting.
“They matchup well with us, so we're going to have to tighten up some things from (the Cleveland game),” said Kevin Martin. “We're going in playing another veteran team that knows how to win, even though their record doesn't show it. We just got to get back on track.”
Thabo Sefolosha on being forced to sit while Cavs guard Kyrie Irving erupted in the fourth quarter Saturday — “Ask coach. That was his decision. And I'm perfectly fine with it. I understand in the heat of the moment you've got to make some decisions, and that's the decision he made. So I'm perfectly fine with it. Did I want to be out there? Of course I wanted to. I always want to be on the court. But coach made the decision and that's the way the game went.”
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY