As the Thunder’s second unit stretched out to a 13-point lead over the Kings with eight minutes left, Oklahoma City fans found themselves in a strange spot — kind of hoping Sacramento had a small run in them to tighten things back up.
Why? Because Kevin Durant was closing in on two things and needed to be on the floor: A triple-double and the NBA’s scoring lead.
He entered the fourth quarter with points and rebounds past the double-digit mark, but needed three more assists to get that elusive first triple-double. And wouldn’t you know it, he finished with seven. I’m thoroughly convinced that if KD is getting a triple-double, he has to get it in three quarters. We’ve been down this road before and either the Thunder are blowing out their opponent so KD just sits or since the game is moderately close, he quits playing facilitator and scores to close out the game. As for the scoring lead, Kobe Bryant finished his game Friday with only 18 points which dropped him to 27.9 on the season. KD finished with 29, so he held firm, meaning he’s right on Kobe’s tail. The tally after tonight: KD at 27.79, Kobe at 27.89.
KD’s game tonight was a wonderful snapshot of how he can so coolly and calmly control a game without forcing a thing offensively. His ability to pile up assists has been an evolution to his game this season, but the way he can own a game is nothing new. Every shot seems measured, smart and in rhythm. It’s almost like the extra passes he makes are him taking pity on teammates. Here, why don’t you try scoring one, Perk.
If KD were a lesser player, he’d use that filthy crossover, post up, or look for more of his own and take more than 15 shots. He’s hoist 20, 22, 25 and look to pile up 35. Instead, he scores 29 the efficient way, while making the other four players on the floor feel as equally important to the offense as possible. It’s the type of unselfishness that’s incredibly contagious and while sometimes it leads to a forced pass from Durant that ends in a turnover, in the long run I think the Thunder are better of with this kind of play. It’s not like KD doesn’t know when he needs to break out and start taking over. He just picks his spots incredibly well. It’s a pretty special talent and one of the reasons I feel strongly KD is deserving of MVP consideration.
The actual game? Oh yeah. The Thunder had that in hand for most of the night. There were times where play was sloppy and the Kings closed it down to two possessions a couple of times, but it was pretty obvious OKC had this one. So for me at least, I was completely locked in on Durant to see what would happen. But it was certainly good of the Thunder to handle business in Sacramento. With a days rest, and a Kings team basically just trying to get to the offseason at all costs, this didn’t really strike me as a game being trap worthy, but you never know.
The Thunder played their typical frustrating style of game where they turned the ball over forcing passes and gave up too many offensive rebounds, but overall, it was a pretty crisp and clean effort. Especially the second half. Sacramento had 15 rebounds at halftime. They finished with 17.
The Thunder are handling business nicely down the stretch so far, but Sunday’s game against the Lakers will go a long way in how we all feel they finished. The No. 1 seed may have already slipped away, but I think the Thunder are playing well enough to feel solid about them heading to the postseason.
- Again, the second half was much better, but 15 offensive rebounds for the Kings. In the first half. Yikes.
- James Harden’s 3-point shooting… it’s terrific right now. He followed up his 40 spot with 20 on 12 shots. That’s encouraging because Harden sometimes is inconsistent putting together consecutive scoring nights.
- During different stretches, the Thunder played some painfully sloppy basketball in this game. But then again, what’s new?
- Perk said postgame, “We’re going to L.A. for business and not fun.” Some on Twitter seemed to interpret that as a shot potentially at the guys that went out to the casino the other night. I didn’t get that at all.
- That Oscar Robertson interview… mildly awkward.
- Westbrook doesn’t really like to finish wide open fast breaks with much authority like he used to. Maybe he’s doinked enough to know it’s not worth it.
- Perk was running the floor wonderfully in the first quarter.
- Russell Westbrook was quietly excellent. He finished with 18 on 8-15 shooting and while he had only three assists to five turns, he didn’t force anything, stayed within the structure and picked his spots well.
- I continue to love Jimmer.
- I’m going to assume it was by coincidence, but I love that the Thunder’s first play was an alley-oop attempt to Westbrook seeing as, you know, they did one the last time these two teams played.
- Serge Ibaka finished with eight blocks tonight. Most times, when a guy has that many you notice them at four, five, six and on. I didn’t. That’s how commonplace these games are becoming with Ibaka.
- After KD hit a 3 over DeMarcus Cousins in the third, Cousins said something that got Durant’s attention. They exchanged what appeared to be some heated words.
- Brian Davis said that maybe Serge Ibaka’s nickname should be “Weed” because he’s “always hiding in the weeds.” Coincidence that comment came on 4/20? Is BD secretly a stoner?
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “I’m telling you, you see those guys all buddy-buddy, I’m thinking, the master of the farce, Fellini. The master of the absurd, Fellini must be in the house as well.” Grant: “Must be smoke and mirrors.” Brian: “Smokin’ something.” Grant: “Indeed.”
Next up: Sunday at the Lakers.