Put that one on file for Kevin Durant. Because if you want a game to help build an MVP resume, KD just turned one in.
With his All-Star teammate going 0-13 from the floor for just four points, Durant nailed big shot after big shot to put away the always pesky Grizzlies, 98-95.
This was quite the test for the Thunder. If you wanted to replicate the issues of last season’s playoff run in a real-game environment, this was it. The Thunder had to execute down the stretch after building and promptly blowing a 12-point lead. They had to overcome adversity and finish out a game against a good team. And they had to do it without Russell Westbrook being much of a factor.
(Sidenote: You can dog Westbrook for his 0-13 game if you want, but I WANT Westbrook taking those shots he missed. I WANT him pulling up for an eight-footer with four minutes left. He’s a freaking All-Star! He’s really, really good. It wasn’t his night, and this just fuels the fire for those that want to stick him with a cattle prod, but Westbrook played hard and was part of OKC’s win. Despite having the worst shooting game of his career, he calmly knocked down two big free throws to essentially ice the game.)
It came down to one important thing: Kevin Durant plays for the Thunder and not for the Grizzlies. While Rudy Gay is a great shot-maker himself, Kevin Durant he is not. KD was able to get to the free throw line isolated on Gay a couple of times and take him one-on-one for points. He made a nice runner and then a ridiculous fadeaway jumper that put the Thunder up five. He’s insane. I’ve watched him played something like 300 games and he continues to blow me away with his ability
The odd thing about this game was that the Thunder took care of the ball (only 10 turnovers) and made 10 3-pointers. You tell me that’s going to happening, and I’m thinking OKC wins by double-digits. But this was the Grizzlies and the Thunder can’t ever beat them without a fight. So Memphis grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and got all those extra possessions anyway.
Here’s a little perspective on how good this Thunder team can be or already is: They just won in Memphis — a Western contender, mind you — despite only getting four points from Russell Westbrook. Think about that for a second. It shows you the depth, the chops and the guts this Thunder team has got. You’re going to have to win a game like this in the postseason and the Thunder has shown that they can do it.
- Serge Ibaka started with back-to-back jumpers. Then disappeared until the last four minutes, playing a total of 22. Tonight, it felt like more of a Scott Brooks thing than an Ibaka issue. Because Ibaka was pretty productive during his time in the game. It just seems like Brooks trusts Nick Collison (or smallball) more than he does Ibaka in crunchtime, but Brooks came back with Ibaka after Collison picked up a foul and Serge responded with a huge block with 30 seconds left and OKC up four.
- KD started the game 3-9 in the first half and went 7-8 for 19 points in the second. Never count KD out. He heats up faster than a seat belt in summer time.
- The Thunder had 54 points at halftime. I swear watching the game, it felt like 34. Thabo and Perk for the love of Thunder were keeping OKC in it with 17 combined points.
- James Harden, stupid good. He had 20 points off the bench and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
- Thought it was interesting that the Thunder had Thabo defending Rudy Gay and KD on Tony Allen. Obviously in an effort to save KD for offense. Guess it worked as KD dominated the second half while Rudy Gay went through a really tough stretch late after defending KD all night.
- It has to be noted that Mike Conley rolled his ankle on the first possession of the game and sat out for the rest of it. His replacement, Jeremy Pargo, played really well though putting up 15 points and seven assists.
- Daequan Cook was just massive in this one. He went 3-4 from deep and would’ve been 4-5 had he not had a heel out of bounds (I feel like I would step out of bounds ALL the time in that short corner). I can’t believe it doesn’t happen more often. . And it’s not just that, but he seems to have a knack for hitting that deflating 3 for the other team. They’re building momentum or it’s a dry spell for OKC and Cook drops a big one. Timely shooting is sometimes as important as 30 points.
- One thing I was impressed by from Westbrook: Even though he was playing awful, when he checked back in with 6:21 left, he was energized defensively and never lost his cool. Put yourself in his shoes. You’d be frustrated out the butt. But he kept team first and tried to just play his game and do his job. Some people were yelling, “Stop shooting!” but he took just 13, which is a really low number for him. He just didn’t get to the rim tonight and missed a bunch of jumpers.
- There was a though about whether Brooks might stick with Eric Maynor down the stretch for OKC. The Thunder were playing well and had a lead and Westbrook was off. But Brooks came back with Westbrook and the Thunder hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to extend a lead from three to 12. There was nothing Westbrook did in those five minutes to blow the lead though. It was more about rebounding than anything else.
- There’s just something about Marc Gasol’s face…
- Cole Aldrich saw a little early playing time because of foul trouble and did well enough. Got on the floor, grabbed a rebound and blocked a shot.
- One thing Westbrook has got to figure out how to control himself around the rim. Like how Derrick Rose will slide seemingly in midair around a defender, Westbrook needs to develop that.
- Harden hides the ball so well by dragging it when he enters the paint that when defenders hack, they can’t help but hit his arm. It’s the subtleties of Harden’s game that makes him so good.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “KABOOM! KABOOM! KABAMM!!!”
Next up: Home against Dallas Thursday.