Eleven games into his sixth NBA season, Kevin Durant finally has his first triple-double.
KD had 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists Sunday night in Oklahoma City against the Warriors, setting the tone with his crisp and unselfish play as the Thunder beat Golden State 119-109 in a game that wasn’t quite that close. Durant netted the triple-double in style, getting his 10th assist late in the 4th quarter on a dish to Kevin Martin for a 3-pointer as the Thunder put the game away.
Durant’s play has been building to this his entire career, but specifically through the first part of this season. Durant has never been an unselfish player and can put up double-digit rebounds whenever he pleases, so it figures that he would eventually get a triple-double. It’s a little weird that he hadn’t until Sunday night actually — although he probably would have once or twice if he had played the fourth quarter in games that the Thunder were winning going away. But with the way KD had been playing though the first 10 games of the year, you knew it was a matter of time.
(And time for a quick shout out to Royce for predicting this last month. But because he’s gone this weekend, let’s all point and laugh at him for finding a way to miss KD’s first triple-double. I’ll bet he’s mad.)
The Thunder started off the game sharing the ball, and it kept up the entire way. Oklahoma City recorded 31 assists for the second straight game, which is pretty much like lightning striking twice. That usually just doesn’t happen. But a lot of people have figured that the Thunder would have to do a lot of sharing the ball in the post-James Harden era to be successful — not that OKC would have needed to share it better had he stayed as well — and it looks like the team might actually be ready to do it.
It wasn’t all Durant, of course, although his recognition of where to pass the ball as the defense shaded his way was certainly the key to the game and the catalyst to the rest of the Thunder’s night offensively. Russell Westbrook rebounded from a recent stretch of poor shooting games to finish 12-22 from the field, restricting himself to only two 3-pointers and making them both. He was also careful with the ball, and he and Durant combined for 20 assists and only three turnovers. That may be the first time they’ve ever combined for a ratio like that.
Defensively, it wasn’t the Thunder’s best night overall. But it was a solid effort for most of the game, save a stretch of about six minutes at the start of the fourth quarter when Golden State was able to trim a 22-point lead down to less than 10 points. OKC came out active on the defensive end and never let the Warriors lead after scoring the first bucket of the game, challenging shots and keeping them off their rhythm. More credit to Westbrook, who finished with five steals and was the pest that he can be when he chooses to.
Aside from that poor stretch at the beginning of the fourth quarter, it has been a welcome sight to watch OKC put away inferior teams relatively early twice in a row and resemble the dominant Western Conference force that they figured to be even after the Harden trade. It’s a stark contrast to some of the sloppy and unfocused play that marked even some of the wins through this early part of the season.
And to me, it’s no coincidence that these past two games have produced the results they have because Oklahoma City has come out focused on making the extra pass and playing intense, team-oriented defense. The Thunder feed off their best players, like many teams, and with Westbrook and Durant both locked in, and Durant showing more dominance as a complete player instead of just as a scorer, OKC is going to be at its best when everyone is touching the ball and making an impact.
The next step is to put together this kind of performance against a good team. The Thunder has yet to outclass another playoff team, clicking on all cylinders. They get another chance Wednesday.
- Does anybody know where Kevin Durant’s mom is? She hasn’t been to many home games this year and wasn’t at the game Sunday. Mrs. James theorizes that this, along with the 90-second limit on pregame routines, could be part of why the Thunder just haven’t looked as comfortable as they usually do. Then again, this discussion took place right before OKC immediately looked pretty comfortable.
- I don’t know if this is a product of KD trying to assert himself earlier because of the new adjustments to the rotation, but it seemed like he was the guy bringing the ball up the court more often than usual tonight in the first part of both halves. I don’t know for certain that it was more than usual, but it seemed like it. Could be interesting to watch going forward.
- Speaking of the rotation adjustments, Durant checked out for the first time tonight at the 3:42 mark of the first quarter, replaced by Thabo Sefolosha (who had only recently headed to the bench). Brooks went with a lineup of Westbrook, Sefolosha, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet for most of the rest of the quarter, and they essentially played the Warriors even. Eric Maynor came in for Westbrook with about a minute to go, and KD was back in at the start of the second quarter.
- Both KD and Westbrook played the entire third quarter, except for Westbrook in the last 55 seconds. I don’t know if Scott Brooks was trying to get the lead to a point where he wouldn’t have to bring them back out in the fourth, or if that’s part of the new plan as well. Hard to say. But it will be interesting to monitor how this plays out for the next couple of weeks. I don’t have any strong opinions on it yet.
- Let’s talk about Thabeet for a second. He may have had his best game as a Thunder player Sunday in 13 minutes. Thabeet is clearly gaining confidence, and was active and in control. He showed he doesn’t always have stone hands, he was altering shots and rebounding, and he did a good job of setting screens and flashing open for just long enough to make a Golden State defender stay committed to him. OKC is getting its money’s worth from Thabeet, and that’s a good thing to see. His hard work is paying off. He clearly belongs in the rotation.
- A lovely and efficient outing from Kevin Martin, who had 23 points and made five of seven 3-pointers.
- I liked Draymond Green at Michigan State, and I like him now. He was having a solid game before foul trouble derailed him. Just one of those guys who seems to always make the right play. He led the Warriors at +8 (as compared to fellow rookie Harrison Barnes’ -24).
- Westbrook detonated late in the second quarter, exploding to the hoop for a monster dunk with about six seconds left. Then he used his adrenaline to force Stephen Curry into a bad shot before the buzzer.
- Speaking of defense on Curry, Kendrick Perkins deployed that one-man press again a few times tonight, and it was awesome. I don’t know if I’m the first to do it, but I’m going to start calling it the Perk Press. The best one was when he pressured Curry all the way up the court, getting low in his stance when Curry made it to the 3-point line and clapping to fire himself up. The crowed responded, and Perk kinda-sorta forced Curry into an awkward turnover that the crowd and the Thunder bench loved.
- Well, the next Perk Press resulted in David Lee getting to go up against KD in the post for a bucket. But still. Big fan of the Perk Press.
- Klay Thompson was rumored to be a potential target of Sam Presti when he was shopping Harden. Lots of Thunder fans would have been on board with a Harden trade that netted Thompson (assuming a trade had to be made). And for good reason, because Thompson is a nice player. But he had a quiet night Sunday, scoring only four points in 23 minutes. Thompson is off to a brutal start this year, shooting only 36 percent from the field.
- This might surprise you, but there were a few moments when the Thunder’s boxing out on the defensive end was just nonexistent. I get so tired of seeing that.
Next up: Wednesday against the Clippers.