Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant willed his team to a tough 98-95 road win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Feb. 11th, and spoke afterward about the budding rivalry between two of the elite Western Conference teams.
Kevin Durant on the Blazers: "We respect this team. They respect us. But we don't like them and they don't like us."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) February 12, 2014
"We don't like them. They don't like us. It's that simple."-- KD on playing the Blazers.— Erik Gundersen (@blazerbanter) February 12, 2014
KD finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight turnovers in the win. With the victory, the Thunder improved to a league-best 42-12—five games ahead of the No. 3 seed Trail Blazers, who fell to 36-16.
Oklahoma City lost the first two matchups against Portland this season on Dec. 4 and Dec. 31. In those two games, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge dominated the Thunder on the interior by averaging 31.5 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Aldridge echoed Durant's sentiment after the loss, per Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver:
LaMarcus Aldridge on the Thunder: "We don't care to like them. ... We're not trying to make friends out there, we want to win games."— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 12, 2014
Since dropping the first two meetings with the Trail Blazers by a combined 11 points, the Thunder have evened the season series at two games apiece with wins on Jan. 21 and Feb. 11.
OKC has been on a tear even without point guard Russell Westbrook. The Thunder rattled off a 10-game win streak in January behind the exploits of Durant, and they've only lost six games total since falling to the Trail Blazers 98-94 at the end of December.
Portland, meanwhile, sports the NBA's highest-scoring offense at 108 points per game. The team's defense and bench, however, has been its Achilles heel.
The Trail Blazers have the league's 27th-ranked defense—surrendering 103.5 points on average. Their second unit ranks dead last by scoring 22.8 points per game, according to Hoops Stats.
With the season series now knotted up at 2-2, these two teams won't play again during the 2013-14 campaign unless they meet in the postseason.
If that happens, the NBA community would be treated to one heck of a series.