OAKLAND, Calif. — The most important moment during Golden State's shellacking of the Thunder wasn't even a basketball play.
Oklahoma City lost 112-80 on a night when it couldn’t find reliable ways to score. The Warriors closed the game on a 42-14 run. This had nothing to do with that. It had nothing to do with the Thunder falling to the defending champions for the first time this season. They had previously blown them out twice.
Instead, the evening's most memorable moment came on what could have been — should have been — a meaningless third-quarter play.
Russell Westbrook was short on a floater with just over two minutes to go in the period and with the Thunder trailing 75-66. He flew back up for the rebound, landed off-balance and fell. And as he laid there, head in the restricted area, legs just outside of it, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia plopped into his knees.
“What do you mean what happened? What'd you think what happened? Don't lie, don't lie, you saw the instant replay four times,” Westbrook said after the game. “What happened?”
“Don't ask me dumb questions, man. Obviously it was intentional,” he said. “So, don't ask me if it was intentional. Nobody touched him. He fell on my leg, tried to hurt me. But hey, that's how it goes.”
Paul George took a similar approach to Westbrook, though he included some more color.
“I’ll take the Russ approach to this. Did you see it?…You know Zaza,” he said. “You know his history. You know nobody pushed him. He aimed where he was gonna fall. That’s Zaza making a Zaza play. He’s on the end of hurting a lot of guys.”
It wasn’t the first dust-up between Westbrook and Pachulia, who has a history with the Thunder.
The Warriors center, who Westbrook said is "for sure" a dirty player, knocked the Thunder point guard to the floor with a hard screen during a mid-season game a year ago.
Westbrook declared that night, “I’m going to get his [expletive] back…I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I don’t play that game.” He never actually did.
Pachulia had some tiffs with Steven Adams while playing for Dallas during the Thunder’s and Mavericks’ 2016 first-round playoff series, as well. He famously stepped under San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard while Leonard was shooting a jumper during Game 1 of last season's Western Conference Finals, injuring Leonard, who missed the rest of the series.
Pachulia, however, wasn’t having it when asked about the play after the game.
“No comment. That’s childish. Come on,” he said. “I’m not responding to that.”
The spectacle overshadowed one of the Thunder’s least impressive offensive performances in recent memory.
They made only 33 percent of their shots and 27 percent of their 3s. Paul George finished 1 of 14. Westbrook went 4 of 15. Carmelo Anthony was 6 of 17. Their combined 11 of 46 effort helped them total only 34 points combined.
Somehow, there weren’t many repercussions early. Even while playing at Golden State, a team that piles on after clanks and turnovers, the Thunder stayed competitive.
They trailed 70-66 more than halfway into the third quarter, even though they were still shooting worse than 40 percent at the time.
The Warriors were missing, too. But they stopped, finally catching fire in transition off all that OKC inaccuracy, going on a 14-0 run to close the third which turned into a 21-1 sprint extending into the start of the fourth.
“We really did a great job in the first half and got really good looks…We were playing well,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “We just couldn’t generate enough offense.”
But that tends to happen with the Warriors, who drained seven of their 15 triples on the night during that game-closing 42-14 run. It’s the NBA’s best offense showing off in a having a spurt that made it look like the NBA’s best offense.
Of course, that wasn’t the story. Somehow, it came back to Westbrook and Pachulia. Again.
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.