In one corner, it was Patrick Beverley, James Harden and the Rockets. In the other, it was Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
The the bell sounded. It was time for round 1.
Tuesday was the first time Westbrook had played against Houston since Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. It was in that game that Beverley infamously crashed into Westbrook, tearing the meniscus in his knee.
Scott Brooks said before the game that he didn't address the incident with Westbrook.
"I've not mentioned it to him or the team," Brooks said.
He didn't have to. Westbrook was out for blood.
This thing wasted no time getting out of hand. The Thunder called a timeout at the 6:10 mark of the first quarter, and Beverley was at it again.
It was time for round 2.
After the whistle blew, Beverley ran into Westbrook right in front of the Thunder bench, causing a scuffle. It didn't escalate beyond pushing, shoving and yelling, but this was just the beginning. The incident occurred in almost the exact same spot on the floor that Beverley injured Westbrook during Game 2 of last season's playoffs.
Beverley was issued a technical foul, so one might think he learned his lesson. But just a minute later, with Beverley checking Westbrook near halfcourt, he did it again.
It was time for round 3.
Beverley poked the ball away and Westbrook recovered, but that didn't stop the Rocket instigator. Beverley tackled Westbrook to the floor, putting his arm around the Thunder guard's neck and dragging him down. The two sides were separated again as the Chesapeake Arena crowd appeared ready to storm the court in anger.
Brooks wasn't in the mood to discuss the incident postgame, but made his stance clear.
"You saw the same thing I saw, there's really not much to talk about," Brooks said. "We played a good basketball game, I'll just leave it at that. I liked the way our guys competed. We're not worried about what they do and how they do it, we worry about what we do."
Westbrook was immediately subbed out for Reggie Jackson (Jackson was already at the scorer's table) and didn't return until the 7:42 mark of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, there was a basketball game going on, and Kevin Durant was having his way. KD scored 12 points in the first quarter to help lead Oklahoma City to a 26-24 lead after one. Westbrook scored four points and committed four turnovers, while Caron Butler added five off the bench. The Rockets had eight players score in the first, with James Harden's five points lead the way. Harden shot just 1-6.
With 6:18 to play in the second quarter, Westbrook leaked out and sank a contested layup over Harden, giving the Thunder a 39-30 lead and bringing the fans to their feet.
Houston called a timeout to settle the crowd, and Reggie Jackson gave the Rockets a little taste of their own medicine.
It was time for round 4.
Knowing a whistle was coming, Jackson sprinted up to Harden and ran into him in front of the Houston bench. Harden saw it coming, and threw his forearm into Jackson's face. The two sides were separated once again as Chesapeake Arena got louder and louder.
"Just happened," Jackson said of the incident. "Talked with James a little bit about if after, but something that just happened, that's what I'll go with. It wasn't really that confrontational, maybe a little love tap from being teammates for two years."
Westbrook's aformentioned layup was the first two points in a 12-2 Thunder run. Russ followed a Jackson 3-pointer with a free throw, layup and a 3-ball and all of the sudden, OKC took a commanding 49-32 lead.
It got so chippy that at one point, Harden shouted words at his former coach. When asked what happened, Brooks joked "Well, my mom wouldn't be proud of me, what I said."
That eventually turned into a 56-41 halftime advantage. It was clear that we were seeing a different Oklahoma City team than we saw in Los Angeles on Sunday.
OKC outscored Houston 30-17 in the second and held Dwight Howard to just one point in the period. Harden's 11 led Houston in the half.
The bell rang again with 7:47 in the third, and it was time for round 5.
While running back on defense, Adams was hit with a flagrant for hitting Harden under his chin. Harden immediately got in Adams' face, but the big Kiwi didn't back down. Players were separated yet again and play resumed.
The Rockets came out with energy, while the Thunder seemed to take a step back from the through-the-roof intensity level we saw in the first half. Houston outscored OKC 26-21 in the period, cutting the deficit to 10 at 77-67.
The fourth opened with a miracle 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia to beat the shot clock, then a well-executed pick and roll for two, finished by Omer Asik. The Thunder lead was 77-72 and what was once a blowout had become a fight.
But in a game that was chippy throughout, Durant threw the knockout blow.
Leading 79-74, Durant pulled up and hit a long jumper. On the next possession, he pulled up from the top of the key and drained a 3-ball to put the Thunder back up 10.
However, this one refused to end without one more scuffle. It was time for round 6.
This time it was Durant and his old foe, Garcia. And after another round of shoving, yelling and separating, Durant and the Thunder got the last laugh.
A few minutes later, with OKC up 89-79, Durant nailed 3-ball, stepping back and fading away from the wing.
Durant finished with 42 points as the Thunder held on for a 106-98 win. He spoke after the game about the extracurricular activity.
"I just love competing," Durant exclaimed. "We love competing. We take it personally but it's not like ‘I hate this guy' or ‘I hate this team,' we play to win. Whoever we're playing against."
Westbrook finished with 24 points and seven assists.
Harden led Houston with 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Howard was held to nine points and 10 boards, while Beverley scored just two points in 25 minutes.
The Thunder is now 3-0 against Houston this season and has won nine of the 12 meetings in the past two seasons. The Thunder has scored 100+ points in all 12 of those matchups, and is now 7-0 when holding Houston to fewer than 100 points.
After losing five of its past eight games, the Thunder had a different level of fight tonight. And it might be the boost this team was looking for as the playoff push heats up.
"Everybody's fighting for something at this point in the season," Butler said. "It don't stop. Bad teams are fighting not to be worse and good teams are fighting to be better. We're fighting to be the best."
Oklahoma City improved to 47-17, one half game behind the Spurs in the West. It also increases the Thunder's lead over Houston to three games. OKC hosts the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.