The night started with the Golden State Warriors being cast as “cupcakes” by the Thunder faithful. It ended with the Thunder at the wrong end of their own joke.
Since the Golden State Warriors became good at basketball, there have been many incredible moments for their fans. And while winning a championship has to be on the top of that list, beating the Thunder on Saturday in the Cupcake Game needs to be up there in terms of satisfaction, if not symbolic importance.
The worst-case scenario to Saturday’s game was Kevin Durant getting booed, shooting 2-of-15 from the field and the Warriors being blown out by 20. Social media would have roasted the Warriors, Russell Westbrook would be gloating and the country would be laughing and calling KD all sorts of names.
For the sake of my mental health, the reverse happened. Durant dropped 34 points and made the hostile fans look pathetic. The Warriors didn’t embarrass themselves and instead turned the embarrassment on everyone who hyped this as a game that would actually be close.
Still, there were plenty of good moments — for the Warriors, at least. Moments like KD slamming it down on a fastbreak, finished off with a skip on the top of the “Oklahoma City Thunder”-labeled baseline. Or moments like KD draining a three from Steph Curry-range in Westbrook’s face.
Going into the game, the joke was on Durant and the Warriors. This was, after all, KD’s first trip back to Oklahoma City since betraying the Thunder making a very reasonable decision to escape the drag of the Midwest for the buzzing lifestyle of the Bay Area and join the Warriors, a team filled with unselfish players that he would fit in with.
Nonetheless, Thunder fans decided to be petty. Restaurants turned down KD’s requests for tables. Fans held up signs, printed out old tweets from Durant, wore t-shirts with a picture of a cupcake on them, just dressed up as cupcakes themselves, and did whatever the hell this was:
They booed him when he ran onto the court for warmups, booed him more when he was introduced, and booed him even more when he touched the ball. They cheered for his missed shots, rose with tense excitement when they saw Russell Westbrook matched up on him on-one-one, gave a standing ovation when he missed a free throw — basically, they did everything they could do show Durant that he was now a sworn enemy.
It was much of the same on the court. It took a half for tempers to boil, for Westbrook to become frustrated that his former partner-in-crime was now about to beat him soundly in his place. You almost felt sorry for Russ at that moment, walking back to his huddle and yelling, “I’m coming” at a bemused KD, whose “So what?” response was perfect because trash talking shouldn’t really count as trash talking if the deficit is more than 10 points.
By the end of the game, it was the Warriors wearing “Cupcake” t-shirts in straight-up mockery of Thunder fans who thought calling someone a type of pastry would be a good insult. I mean, I love cupcakes. No one has ever said a bad word about a cupcake, ever. Those fans had so many fighting words available in their arsenal, and they went with the softest jab imaginable.
On paper, this game meant nothing. The Warriors beat a team they should have beaten. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green complemented Durant well, putting up their usual numbers. JaVale McGee was terrific. The bench did its part. As a whole, the team shot nearly 53 percent and dropped 130 points easy.
But it was all overshadowed by Durant, who Durant did an incredible job of handling a sticky situation. He was painted as a villain when he did no wrong, ostracized from the city he contributed so much to, and considered public enemy No. 1 to teammates he when to battle with just half a year ago.
That’s what made this win so satisfying — the fact that the Warriors are super villains, they know it, and they don’t care. They’ll keep shooting 3s, keep running the fast break, keep feeding their shiny new toy who wears No. 35. They will ruin the party, shut down the most raucous of crowds, and then come back and stomp on your face.
I give the best quote to Durant, though, who said he thought the crowd “would be louder.” This is a crowd that lined up in droves to just to belittle this man, a crowd that went through the trouble of printing thousands of t-shirts with freaking cupcakes on them, a crowd that redefined the word “petty” — and KD just looked at it, dropped 34 points and spat all over everyone’s collective shoes.
But he did most of his talking on the court. He was his typical Durant-self, racking up points without you even noticing, leading the Warriors to a win on the second game of a back-to-back on the road. And with each make, with each time the PA announcer was forced to mumble, “Kevin Durant,” the boos softened, the crowd listed, and reality set in: Kevin Durant isn’t on your team anymore, and no matter how many “cupcake” chants you start, he ain’t coming back.