Kendrick Perkins turned and glared at TNT's broadcast table.
Apparently, the Thunder big fella had heard about the less-than-complimentary things the network announcers had said about his pick-and-roll defense in these Western Conference Finals. And apparently, he didn't like it.
After at least two first-half defensive stops aided by his play, Perkins stared down the broadcast crew.
“Talk about that,” he yelled.
That scowl had never looked more nasty.
Ditto for the Thunder.
On a night when the boys in blue had to find a way to win to extend their season much beyond the weekend, they not only beat the Spurs but also changed the complexion of this series. They did it with defense. They did it with execution. But most of all, they did it with nasty.
Thunder 102, Spurs 82.
“We played better basketball,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That was the game plan going in — to play much better basketball.”
Did better basketball mean nastier basketball?
When asked the question in the postgame press conference, Brooks gave a wry smile.
Hey, just because Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told his guys that he wanted some nasty and it became a phenomenon in San Antonio doesn't mean they are the only ones who can get down and dirty.
The Spurs don't have the corner on nasty.
“It's important to play tough basketball,” Brooks said. “It's what we're about. We're built on toughness.”
Well, actually, the Thunder is built on a trio of amazingly talented youngsters named Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. You aren't going to mistake these Thunder for the present-day Grizzlies or bad-boy Pistons. But still, these guys can bring the grit and the grind.
And with their postseason hopes hanging in the balance, they brought it Thursday night.
We saw signs of what was to come in Game 2. When the Thunder found itself down three touchdowns in the second half, it slowed down the Spurs' flow by bringing a bit of street fight to the game. It hacked Tiago Splitter. It bowed up.
It didn't equate to a win, but the fact that the Thunder made a game out of it was a huge accomplishment.
Thursday night, they brought the fight from the beginning. Thabo Sefolosha came up with steals. Perkins forced turnovers. Russell Westbrook pushed the ball in transition. Kevin Durant finished with authority.
And that was just in the first three minutes of the game.
Even though the Spurs fought back from a big early deficit, the Thunder just kept coming. Eventually, the lead grew to double digits. Then, it went to 20. Then, it went to blowout status.
The Spurs sat four of their five starters the entire fourth quarter.
“They really attacked us and got us on our heels,” Spurs big man Tim Duncan said. “I don't know if that's Xs and Os or energy or whatever.
“That's just them playing better than we did.”
Popovich said, “They beat us good.”
Funny how the way that the Thunder won Game 3 has changed the whole tenor of this series. A day ago, everyone on the Thunder Bandwagon wondered if the ride would be over before the week was. A Spurs sweep seemed entirely possible.
But now? Who couldn't see the Thunder winning again Saturday and sending this series back to San Antonio knotted at two? Nothing's a foregone conclusion with a Spurs team this good, but suddenly, the Thunder doesn't seem to be out of its league. Winning another game or two seems likely. Making this a series seems possible.
“We came out with the sense of urgency that we need to play with for the rest of the series,” Durant said. “It's all about fighting.”
Bring the Thunder?
Bring the nasty.