Durant being Durant, of course, claimed it does.
“You have to go through those guys, because they've been through it,” Durant said. “They've been through tough battles in the playoffs. They've been through championships and they know what it takes to win basketball games, regular season or postseason.”
But what the Oklahoma City Thunder confirmed in the last two nights was that there is certainly a changing of the guard taking place before our eyes. While playing in front of a nationally televised audience, the Thunder took down the Lakers 100-85 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday night. Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points and never trailed in the second half.
In another nationally televised game roughly 24 hours earlier, Oklahoma City disposed of the Celtics, albeit an injury-filled version, with the same 15-point throttling. In that game, the Thunder led by as many as 27.
Two games. Two nights. Two lopsided wins against league royalty.
“We're coming into our own,” said Royal Ivey. “We got a year under our belt coming from the Western Conference Finals. The focus is now. We're just playing every game like it's our last and we're just locking in.”
If the league has been too wrapped up in Linsanity to see what's taking place in Oklahoma City, the Thunder just strung together a week that should put everyone on notice as All-Star Weekend now arrives. The Thunder will break for Orlando tied with Miami for the league's best record at 27-7 after winning its 12th straight at home to bump its record inside Chesapeake Energy Arena to a league-best 15-1.
“I think we had a good week of basketball,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I think everybody came in and mentally and physically prepared themselves to play five good games in seven nights. We all know that's a very difficult thing to do, but we all challenged ourselves individually and as a team to come out and do it every night.
“And after this week, I think we all need a break, fans included. They came out every night. It's well-deserved. It was a great week of basketball in Oklahoma City. Everybody deserves the All-Star break.”
Brooks said he is pleased with what his team showed in the first half.
“I think we've played good basketball,” Brooks said before the game. “There's room to get better. But we've done a good job. Guys have really done a good job of competing every night and practicing when we're able to practice and finding ways to get better on the fly.
“I think we've had a good first half. Our guys don't rest. They want to keep moving forward. Like I've said, rebounding, passing and turnovers is something that we will continue to work on and try to get better at and we should.”
In its final statement before All-Star Weekend, the Thunder put on a defensive clinic against L.A., holding the Lakers to 38.5 percent shooting and limiting star guard Kobe Bryant to 24 points on 24 shots. OKC also out-rebounded L.A., the league's best team under the glass, and had little difficulty scoring against the Lakers' twin towers of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
But nothing illustrated the Thunder's rising supremacy better than an exchange late in the game between Bryant and James Harden. The two began exchanging words at the end of a Lakers possession, and words quickly turned into a stare-down. The two eventually had to be separated.
The message, though, had been sent.
“We don't back down,” Brooks said. “I don't coach the perfect players or the perfect team, and they're not coached by the perfect coach. But one thing we don't do is we don't back down. You don't fight in this league. You have to play basketball. You have to compete and you have to make your opponent respect you by outworking them. And we have a team built on work and effort and energy. And our guys are continuing to get better and continuing to play better.”