Perry Jones III hadn’t been in the game 90 seconds.
But Kevin Durant didn’t like what he was seeing.
And so the Thunder star called over his second-year teammate, pulling him off the lane during a free-throw attempt despite OKC owning a 15-point lead.
“Wake your (blankety blank) up,” Durant barked at Jones near the scorer’s table.
No one needed to give Durant a wake-up call.
Facing its first conference contender without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder sent a message with a wire-to-wire 117-86 win over Houston on Sunday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
And no statement was louder than the one Durant delivered.
He dominated throughout, carrying his teammates with both bold words and beautiful actions, all the while proving he has plenty in reserve to keep his franchise afloat while it’s missing its All-Star point guard.
Durant scored 33 points with 13 rebounds, both game highs, and added five assists, a steal and a blocked shot. He made 11 of 17 shots in 38 minutes.
But it wasn’t just the numbers that defined Durant’s night.
It was the pep in his step, the look in his eyes and the fire and intensity with which he played. He took his game to a higher level Sunday in a showdown he knows could turn into a playoff rematch this spring.
From chewing out an up-and-coming teammate to a second-quarter stare down of old nemesis Francisco Garcia when things got too physical on the low block, Durant was dialed in the whole way.
He harassed an official when he drew a foul call and it was called on Terrence Jones instead of Dwight Howard.
He squawked at the Rockets bench after hitting a jumper over former teammate James Harden, a play he orchestrated the entire way when he called for a screen that would force Harden to switch and be left isolated on the right wing.
He attacked and attacked and attacked some more, applying non-stop pressure on the Rockets defense with drives that were as forceful as we’ve seen. Each one led to a nifty layup, a three-point opportunity or rim-rattling dunks.
He had three of the latter, one in the face of Jones, one that caused Harden to sidestep at the last second and one with Howard in the vicinity. On the last sequence, Durant again had some choice words for the Rockets, this time he directed it at their prized center.
“He feel like he got to come and set the tone, and he doing that,” said Kendrick Perkins. “I’m liking the mean KD; giving stare downs when he’s dunking on people. I’m rolling with that.”
Of course Perk would.
Durant, meanwhile, is too politically correct to speak on it publicly, and so he downplayed the source of his efforts after the game. But all throughout the summer, when Houston commanded the league’s attention with its blockbuster acquisition of Howard and caused many to wonder whether the Rockets had surpassed the Thunder, Durant grew testy each time the topic was brought up. The focus, Durant always said, should be on the Thunder. That’s the way he wanted to keep it.
With Sunday’s performance, Durant did his part to make sure it stayed that way.
But remember the gear he got to and stayed at against these reloaded Rockets.
Nothing else we’ve seen provides more reason to believe the Thunder could be just fine for as long as it must be without Westbrook.