The cameras didn't catch it, but the broadcast's sideline reporter did.
Midway through the first half of Monday's Game 4 loss at Denver, the Thunder's All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reportedly had a heated exchange during a timeout. TNT sideline reporter Pam Oliver reported the verbal dispute during the game.
On Tuesday, the Thunder insisted the jawing was positive.
“It was all about trying to do the right thing,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We got to get a stop. That's what it was about. We got to stop the ball. Their point guards are getting inside the paint. The bigs and the guards have got to do a better job of stopping the basketball. That's what the conversation was about.
“It's funny because it's in the playoffs on national TV, but it happens a lot. It doesn't happen every timeout every game. But guys are emotional. Guys care about what we do and they express that and I like that. I do the same thing.”
Durant also downplayed the incident.
“We've been doing that all season,” Durant said. “That's a part of a basketball team. You're not going to always be happy all the time. … Sometimes you have to scream at guys for them to get the point. That's what we were doing.”
Westbrook and Durant didn't appear to have any odd moments on the court following the exchange. At one point, when Durant fell to the floor in the second half, Westbrook was the first to run over to Durant to help him off the court.
But following a Nuggets basket in the second half, Westbrook chewed out Serge Ibaka during a brief stoppage in play near halfcourt for what appeared to be a missed defensive assignment on Ibaka's part. The crowd erupted at the Thunder's bickering, which has been a rarely seen sight this season.
“I have no problem with it,” Brooks said. “I like that stuff. Whether it gets heated, it's never personal with our team. It's always about trying to figure out ways to get better.
“We have quite a few of those conversations during the game, whether it's one-on-one as a team is shooting a free throw or during a timeout or at halftime or at the end of a game.”
On his part, Durant said he was simply stressing the importance of sticking together, especially on the road.
“There's 15 guys, plus the coaches, that have to stay together,” Durant said. “One or two guys can't stray away from the group because you're upset. We all have to stay together. That's all I was stressing, and that's what Russell was stressing.”
Durant remained supportive of Westbrook on Tuesday despite his point guard's poor decision-making in the 104-101 loss. Many national analysts pinned the loss on Westbrook, who scored 30 points on 30 shot attempts while seemingly refusing to share the ball or even look in anyone else's direction.
Durant, who had just 18 shots, didn't.
“It's not on him,” Durant said. “It's a team effort. When we win it's not just because of Russell. So when we lose, it's not just because of him. It's a team effort. That's why we lost.”
Durant said Westbrook was in good spirits Tuesday, showing up at the team's training facility ready to work and move on from Monday's misery.
“It looks like he didn't really worry about it, and that's what we need,” Durant said.
But Westbrook, Durant said, needs to learn from his mistakes Monday and get better in the aftermath.
“That's one thing he really has to work on,” Durant said. “He wants to do so well all the time. He's so hard on himself. He's his biggest critic. He might miss a shot or get a turnover, and sometimes he lets that affect him a little bit. But he's getting past it. He's been working on that. And as teammates, we got to do a great job of helping him out and encouraging him. That's all we've been trying to do.”
Thunder vs. Nuggets
When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Oklahoma City Arena
TV: TNT (Cox 31, HD Ch. 730), FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM
Three things to know
* Only eight teams in NBA playoff history have ever come back to win a series after trailing 3-1.
* The Nuggets are shooting 69.2 percent from the free throw line in this series. The Thunder is shooting 79.2 percent from the stripe.
* Thunder forward Serge Ibaka has registered a double-double in three straight games.