Kevin Durant soared through the Dallas air Thursday night, soared maybe higher than he's ever soared before, to slam on 7-foot Maverick Brendan Haywood.
Both Durant and Scotty Brooks called it their favorite dunks ever. ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy called it the NBA's play of the year. Mark Jackson called it one of the five best playoff dunks ever.
Durant soared so high, he didn't even emotionally descend upon landing. Durant was so pumped up, he did a very un-Durantlike thing. He talked smack.
“AND-ONE!” Durant yelled at Haywood, which drew an immediate technical foul.
“I loved it,” said Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins.
Which? The dunk or the technical?
“Both,” said the Thunder's resident rogue. “I loved the attitude.”
As the Thunder hosts Dallas on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the attitude is spreading.
The Thunder — this young, this happy, this boy-scout-of-a-basketball team — is the NBA leader in playoff technicals.
Everyone knew Perkins could alienate anyone in a striped shirt. Or that the hot-blooded Russell Westbrook could draw a reprimand. But Serge Ibaka, who barely speaks English? Nick Collison, from the distinctly anti-technical foul hamlet of Iowa Falls, Iowa? Kevin Durant, the humble superstar?
All have technicals this post-season. Durant has two. Westbrook four. Perk five. The Thunder has 16 in 14 games. Even Thabo Sefolosha has been T'd up, and Thabo is from Switzerland.
It's almost enough to make Perkins stop scowling.
“I don't think being nice is getting you where you need to go,” Perkins said.
The Thunder is playing with an edge. With an attitude. The Thunder got shoved around a year ago in the Laker playoff series. A year older, a year wiser, a year with Perk serving as body guard, the Thunder is shoving back.
“We've had some personnel changes,” Collison said with a smile, referring to the trade that brought Gran Torino over from Boston.
Perkins' arrival did more than bring a defensive mentality and girth in the paint. Perk showed his new teammates how to be mean.