I’m just going to type this for the next 1,400 words: Kevin Durant. I think that should summarize pretty much everything you need to know, or really, want to know. I’ve already heard and seen some saying this was the game KD took The Leap but that’s already happened. He’s leaped. He’s special. Incredible. A gift. Insane. Ridiculous. On and on, you name it, KD is it.
Game 4 was one of those games you file away and plan to call upon 15 years from now when you’re talking about KD. Regardless of what happens next in this series, Durant’s Game 4 was legendary-ish. The Thunder had blown a 15-point second half lead watching the Spurs close it to two and put the pressure on. But the Thunder put the ball, the game, the series in KD’s hands and he did what he does. Kid Clutch was Kid Closer, embracing the responsibility and excelling with ample amounts of pressure.
(Aside: Here’s how good KD was in this game: Serge Ibaka went 11-11 from the floor for a new career-high of 26 points, and it’s essentially an afterthought.)
It’s a weird thing to watch because it’s never a surprise when KD does it, but there’s that moment you realize you’re watching it happen. When it hits. Holy crap, KD’s doing it. Consider this: He was just 2-4 for 10 points in the first half. He scored 26 of his 36 in the second half. He scored 16 straight points in the fourth quarter. He went 13-20. He had eight assists, six rebounds and a single turnover in 43 minutes. In the first half as the Thunder big men unexpectedly played the best 24 minutes of their lives, Durant sat back and watched. He stayed out of the way. He knew he didn’t have to assert himself.
But as the Spurs’ grip tightened, as the series started to slip away, Durant awoke and grabbed hold of the game and wouldn’t let it go. I was just blown away by this game. I want to watch it on a loop for the next two weeks. I’m already setting my DVR for “never erase” and planning evenings around NBATV’s “Playoffs Playback” of it.
“I just want to be calm and composed and poised in those situations and make the right basketball play,” Durant said. “There are times when I need to pass to my teammates and times when I need to score. I just try to take it on, try not to be nervous. Sometimes it’s nerve-racking playing those games like that. But I just try to calm down and go with my instincts. On the defensive end, I want to be clutch as well.”
Scott Brooks called timeout with 6:33 left as the Spurs had whittled it back to four and that’s when Durant went on the rampage. Asked if Brooks stressed to the team that the ball needed to go to KD, Russell Westbrook said, “When teams start to make a run we gotta go to our first option and that’s Kevin.” He knew he needed to move over and it was absolutely no problem for him. He set terrific screens, played wildman defense and just did his job.
“Russell set great screens. James made great passes. I was just trying to do my job and finish it,” Durant said.
Look at the play-by-play after that Brooks timeout: Durant 17-footer, Durant seven-footer, Harden missed 3, KD and-1, KD nine-footer, KD runner, KD and-1, KD missed jumper, KD 17-footer and then Harden’s 3 set up by Durant. In that stretch from 6:33 to 1:04 where the Thunder put Game 4 away, Durant went 7-8 for 16 points.
Thing is though, it just makes it 2-2. And that’s obviously the most important thing to remember. The Thunder had to have these two and they did their job. Backs to the wall and all that crap and they answered the bell big time. They avenged the first two games in San Antonio and now have a shot in the series.
“We know this is only one step closer,” Durant said. “As people said, we did what we were supposed to do by winning at home. So we’ve just got to go down there with the mindset that we’re going to play hard every possession, play together like we’ve been playing these last few games and we’ll see what happens. We’ve just got to keep believing man. We’ll be fine.”
It’s a best-of-three and the Spurs have homecourt. Meaning that the Thunder have to win once in San Antonio. Whether it’s Game 5 or 7, the Thunder have to find a way to execute this same game away from the 18,203.
Can it be done? Of course. Know why? Because the Thunder have No. 35.
- OK, so Serge Ibaka went 11-11 for 26 points. He was within one of an NBA playoffs record for most makes in a game without a miss (12-12 by Larry McNeill). He was spectacular. He spaced OKC’s offense, gave the team another offensive weapon and picked up any scoring slack needed. It’s a shame this recap isn’t centered around him, because it should be. Freakin’ KD.
- Ibaka on his game: “Maybe a surprise for you, but not a surprise for my teammates or myself. I work hard every day, so for you, I understand it is a surprise.”
- The first half was wild. The Thunder led by 12 despite Durant and Westbrook going a combined 4-11 for 14 points. Why? Because Ibaka and Perk went 12-14 for 27 points. For the game, Ibaka, Perk and Nick Collison went 22-25 for 49 points.
- Read that last sentence again.
- KD walked in with Westbrook to the postgame presser and stopped and looked at the media and said, “You want a picture of his clothes?”
- Westbrook on his fourth quarter defense: “It’s winning time. Whatever you need to do to find a way to get a win, you have to do it.”
- Something really hasn’t gotten into Perk. Fifteen points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes. I think it was almost as much luck as anything else, but man, what an effort these past two games.
- I feel like saying this: For all you idiots that think Russell Westbrook wants the spotlight and hogs it from Durant, here’s your tape.
- DeJuan Blair checked in middle of the third and there was a shudder sent throughout the arena. Immediately the Spurs cut into OKC’s 14-point lead, closing the third on a 17-7 run. Blair only two points and two rebounds, but the guy seems to kill the Thunder no matter what. I hope Pop keeps not playing him for whatever stupid reason.
- I love those random possessions where Westbrook decides to play that hyper-intense defense on someone. He just cranks it up for a little while and shows off how quick and agile he is denying someone the ball.
- This isn’t going to surprise you, but Nick Collison hedging on a screen and hustling to recover on his man. One of my favorite things in the world. Seriously. It really is.
- Ryan Seacrest was in the house. Lil Wayne joke goes here.
- Of note: The last time the Spurs lost back-to-back games, they then won 20 straight.
- Reminder: SERGE IBAKA WENT 11-11!
- Stephen Jackson: “It’s the Western Conference Finals, you’re supposed to play hard. I mean if you’re scared, go to church. Tomorrow is Sunday.”
- Hopefully I’ll have time to look at it more in detail but how about that play out of a timeout with 6:08 left in the third quarter. Excellent cutting play for Durant who went for an and-1. Beautiful.
- The Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs in a game where Russell Westbrook went 2-10 for seven points. Think about that one.
- And James Harden 4-13 for 11.
- The play OKC ran over and over and over and over for KD? I broke it down earlier in the season.
- It wasn’t turnover for the Spurs this time as they only had 10. They shot the ball wonderfully (50 percent), went 11-23 from 3 and yet OKC beat them. Why? The Thunder hit 56.4 from the field, outrebounded them 41-31, had 27 assists, turned it over only 13 times and Kevin Durant.
Next up: Game 5 Monday in San Antonio.