"Once I heard that I was like, 'They're trying to get in between this thing and make it bigger than what it is'". Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after Wednesday's win at IN that he was considering resting the three All-Stars, but they all started. Instead he picked the organization that just defeated him, and in the process strengthened them and weakened the franchise that raised him.

In the case of the relationship between Westbrook and Durant, the Warriors were the side-piece in this situation that got promoted to being the main.

Oklahoma City stay seventh in the West with a 31-23 record, but are seven games clear of eighth spot and staying in touch with the teams above them in the playoff race. This one was nice and could be construed as a sign of growth: During the fourth period, OKC got at least one basket from six players.

For what it's worth, Westbrook has also downplayed the tension between him and Durant in the past.

More Westbrook heroics. Which was true. Besides, the teams have already played twice in Golden State (Durant scored 39 points and then 40 in blowout victories). He had performances that were otherworldly because he had to. Payne's 15 points kept the energy high while Westbrook Saturday.

The Houston Rockets were too good for the Charlotte Hornets, with stalwart James Harden dropping 30 points.

Kyrie Irving scored 28 points, LeBron James had 18 and Kevin Love added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won four straight.

Westbrook: 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

The NBA futures of Westbrook and Durant continue to shine brilliantly.

As expected, all of his major stats increased and with Westbrook being Westbrook you'd expect certain categories to increase also: shot-attempts (16.7 with KD, 22.5 without), turnovers (3.6, with Durant, 4.7 without) and field-goal percentage (43.7% with KD, 41.9% without), all stats via StatMuse and before the 2016-17 season. He's become bigger than an alpha dog. The Super Bowl is over and now the spotlight is on the National Basketball Association and even the most miniscule movements get magnified, more so Durant's comeback to OK.

The Thunder put together a nice stretch of games in the month of January in a 7-3 SU and ATS run, but ended the month on a low note with a 107-91 loss to Cleveland and a 108-94 loss to San Antonio.

Both LeBron and Kobe were deemed alpha dogs on teams that weren't the best. I'll admit it was tough to see Kevin warm up at Oracle Arena last November when the Thunder matched up against the Warriors for the first time this season.

Once again, it was Westbrook who knocked down a jumper before Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant came up with a block on the other end. Will Westbrook lead the Thunder to the Conference Finals?

For Thunder fans and Russell Westbrook, the Golden State challenge is deeply personal.


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