What is a rivalry? Can it be sold based on potential and advertised by the names on the back of the jerseys? Must true rivalries be built in the playoffs, created once both sides have tasted the bitterness of defeat on the game's biggest stage? Can it spawn in an instant? Is there a telltale sign?
"We should've won the game,'' said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle after his team's 95-91 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday, adding that his team was "deserving of a better outcome."
"We gutted this one out, man," said Kevin Durant from the winning locker room, where the Thunder celebrated their 13th straight home win.
And maybe that's the spawning.
The regional ties, the Western Conference Finals battle last season, the peaking of the champion Mavs and the climb of the possible-heir Thunder, a contempt-breeding sixth meeting already this season (counting a preseason doubleheader) and the capper:
A thrilling game in which both combat...