OAKLAND, Calif. — The saying goes that a picture paints a thousand words.
The video of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant attempting to respond to a question about Stephen Curry’s defense, however, said much more than that.
Following Thursday night’s 120-111 win for the Golden State Warriors over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, cutting Oklahoma City’s lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and sending it back there for Game 6 Saturday night, the Thunder stars were asked whether Curry — who stole the ball from Durant with 1:23 remaining in the fourth quarter in a pivotal moment of the game — is an underrated defender.
Here is how Westbrook reacted to the question:
Russ, you thoughts on whether Steph is an underrated defender? https://t.co/YLHpDBHNzi
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 27, 2016
And here is how Durant answered it:
“I mean, getting steals, I don’t know if that’s just … that’s a part of playing defense. He’s pretty good, but he doesn’t guard the best point guards.
“I think they do a good job of putting a couple of guys on Russell, from [Klay] Thompson to [Andre] Iguodala, and Steph, they throw him in there sometimes. He moves his feet pretty well. He’s good with his hands.
“But, you know, I like our matchup with him guarding Russ.”
While Durant’s answer isn’t exactly an unusual one — Thompson and Iguodala are superior defenders to Curry, even if he did lead the NBA in steals this season and finished with five Thursday night — it will be the combination of it, and specifically the last line of it, with Westbrook’s reaction to the question, that will draw headlines.
Curry largely took things in stride when he was asked about Durant’s answer — though Westbrook’s reaction wasn’t mentioned — but did take what could be perceived as a shot at his own at Westbrook in part of his answer.
“I’ve got a great teammate that’s obviously a better defender on the perimeter,” Curry said, referring to Thompson. “I like the challenge. I’ll do my job the best I can. That’s what I’m out there to do.
“So, in those situations, I don’t get too caught up in the one-on-one matchup. My job is to follow the game plan, and I’ve done that the last four years of my career, trying to elevate my defensive presence and do my job.”
It was the first part of that answer — the “I don’t get too caught up in the one-on-one matchup” portion — that could be perceived as a shot at Westbrook. That’s because Westbrook has clearly focused on his matchup with Curry heading into this series.
First, there was Westbrook’s Air Jordan commercial back in February, which featured the line, “What’d y’all expect? Another choir boy running point?” No other player could possibly have been being referenced there besides Curry.
Then came Westbrook’s comment before Game 1 of this series when asked what’s different about guarding Curry than other point guards.
“He’s a shooter,” Westbrook said. “He’s not nothing I haven’t seen. Him, Damian Lillard, guys like that, can shoot the basketball from four or five feet behind the 3, you’ve got to do a little different job. But just be physical.”
Just when it didn’t seem possible for this series to have more drama and intrigue, with the defending NBA champions now heading to Oklahoma City to try and force a Game 7 in front of one of the most hostile and imposing home atmospheres in the NBA, there is now even more to focus on between these two teams between now and when Game 6 tips off Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.