Eleven seconds were all we got, a tease, or merely a taste of how terrific were the good old days of Thunder-Lakers.
They came near the conclusion of the second quarter.
Kobe Bryant had just turned it over underneath his own basket and then turned his attention to defense. His target: Kevin Durant.
Bryant locked himself onto Durant as he advanced the ball, turning him, hounding him. When Durant crossed half-court, Bryant was there, still applying the man-on-man pressure that helped earn him nine All-Defensive First Team selections.
Then Bryant got a little overly aggressive, picking up a foul 40 feet away from the basket. The two stars smiled, gave each other a respectful pat and that was that.
The remaining 47 minutes, 49 seconds looked like anything but your traditional Thunder-Lakers matchup, and the 122-97 final that went Oklahoma City's way on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena told the story of each franchise's trajectory over the past three seasons.
“It's kind of crazy how all the franchises have changed across the league, with different guys in trades and how with one trade a team can go from this to that,” said Russell Westbrook. “But I think around here we've done a great job of just developing guys, taking it year by year and game by game and trying to compete every year.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the Lakers are in full-blown struggle mode.
Injuries, free-agent disappointments and dissension have all crippled a proud franchise. And when the walking wounded arrived for the first of four regular-season meetings, the surging Thunder pounced.
It was a season high in points for OKC and easily the largest margin of victory in the six-year series between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, eclipsing an 18-point road loss the Thunder suffered on March 24, 2009.
Durant was dominant, scoring 31 points in 31 minutes while needing only 13 shots, and Westbrook was unstoppable, adding 19 points, eight rebounds and a team-high 12 assists.
But the player who characterized how much has changed between these two clubs was Serge Ibaka. He continued his All-Star-caliber season by owning the matchup with Lakers star and perennial Thunder pest Pau Gasol. Ibaka scored 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting, with a game-high 10 rebounds for his team-leading 11th double-double.
Gasol scored 14 points with seven rebounds.
Ibaka quietly went about his business, crafting two rock-steady halves while supplying low-post defense, rebounding and hustle plays. Neither Ibaka nor Durant and Westbrook needed to play a second of the fourth quarter after expanding a 15-point halftime lead into a 20-point cushion entering the final frame.
“He's done a great job of spacing out,” Westbrook said of Ibaka. “He knows where he can get his shots.”
The second half was nothing more than an extension of what transpired in the first. The Thunder scored a season-high 38 points in the opening quarter, building a 10-point lead it never relinquished.
Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka led the way, combining to score 31 points with eight rebounds and seven assists while making 11 of 20 shots in the quarter. The Thunder also forced the Lakers into six turnovers in the period, which led to 12 quick and easy points.
When the stars were done, the bench came in and bumped the Thunder lead to as many as 30 points. Reggie Jackson paced all bench players with 19 points. Jeremy Lamb chipped in 11, and Perry Jones III scored nine.
OKC registered a season-high 34 assists against only 14 turnovers.
Bryant, in just his third game since recovering from an Achilles injury, finished with four points on 2-for-6 shooting. Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, with six, scored more. Bryant added a game-high 13 assists, however, as he looked to distribute the ball rather than score.
He was thrust into starting point guard duty with Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake, all three of L.A.'s point guards, out with injury. Without their full complement of players, the Lakers never stood a chance of keeping up.
As a result, the Thunder went on to win its 11th straight at home and improve to 18-4 this season.
Eleven seconds were all we had to remind us just how riveting this matchup once was.
Even that ended on a sour note.
“He's the ultimate competitor,” Durant said of Bryant. “I knew he was going to do that. I knew he was going to challenge me. And a guy like Kobe, if I don't accept the challenge I'm going to hear about it for a while.
“I wish he didn't foul me. I was going to try to go at him at the end of that quarter.”