Survive and advance.
That’s the kind of feel tonight’s game had for the Thunder. Just win the stupid thing and then get the heck out of town. With it kicking off a daunting six-game road trip, starting 0-1 in maybe the most winnable game would’ve been fairly terrible.
For a while, it appeared to be of the mostly ho-hum-taking-care-of-business variety. Then it went into holy-crap-what-a-bad-loss territory. Then is just became an awesome game in general. One thing we definitely learned: If the Thunder are up three with a few seconds against the Mavs, prepare yourself for five more minutes.
OK, that’s long enough. I made it three paragraphs. Kevin Durant, you guys. Kevin Durant. To me, what’s most amazing about his career-high 52-point explosion is that he genuinely didn’t play all that incredible, at least considering the standard he’s set. He went just 2-10 in the fourth quarter, which included seven consecutive misses. Most of them shots he hits with great regularity. It’s kind of ironic. If he knocks down the shots he generally hits, the Thunder probably win by six in regulation and he finishes with 40. Since he missed them, it opened the door for him to get 52.
Durant was so off in the fourth — and I hate myself for this and just got finished taking 35 lashes for it — I wondered if someone else needed the ball. KD seemed to really be guiding the ball. Even the 12-footer he made with a couple minutes left didn’t appear to really be shot with any conviction.
I guess I just needed a little refresher, a little reminder that never, ever, question KD. Because he comes through. In the extra frame he dropped a huge 3, then 15-footer with 58 seconds left, then the game-winner with 16 seconds left. It was just one of those absurd, nonsensical, ridiculous shots that literally only Durant could make. And the amazing thing is, it’s really the second time he’s done it over Shawn Marion, only this one didn’t need 15 bounces.
One thing Durant deserves great credit for as well is not only hitting 21-21 from the free throw line, but his determination in getting there. He knew his shot had betrayed him. So he did what you’re supposed to do. He attacked relentlessly and found free points at the stripe. And eventually he rediscovered that pure as snow stroke and started dropping shots again.
Just… wow. We’ve heard a lot about hoaxes recently, but I’m pretty convinced that Kevin Durant doesn’t exist. Because he’s unreal. He saved the Thunder from regular season disaster, and really covered up the fact OKC played kind of a terrible game. But that’s what great players do. That’s the idea.
Three other big points of this game I want to hit on:
1) How in the name of James Naismith and everything that’s holy did the Thunder not foul EITHER time up three? The first time, Marion caught an inbounds pass with his back to the basket with six seconds left. He held it for a solid two count before passing it. Durant had every opportunity to foul Marion and put him on the line. The second time was with 2.7 seconds left in overtime.
Normally, you’d tell your guys not to even mess with fouling because of the time on the clock and the fact a catch-and-shoot was likely. But Marion again caught the ball with his back completely to the rim. And Serge Ibaka let him hand it off to Vince Carter who got a decent look to tie. I don’t know if this was a failure by Scott Brooks or his players not executing, but boy, it was bad.
2) With about six minutes left, the Thunder really seemed to be intent to let Kevin Martin take over on the offensive end. They isolated him multiple possessions and let him go to work. He drew a foul once, kicked out another time and airballed a shot attempting to draw another foul. With KD struggling, I was pumped that OKC was featuring Martin at a time like that.
But after the airball, Brooks made the choice to sub Thabo in for Martin. It was clearly a defensive move, but more than that a decision to put the game entirely in the hands of Westbrook and Durant. Martin wasn’t going to be anything more than a glorified spot-up shooter, so cut your losses and at least go with a better defensive presence while Durant and Westbrook provided the offense. My question is, would Brooks have ever done that with James Harden? I remember it happening maybe once or twice, but it was extremely rare he wasn’t on the floor late.
3) Here’s an underrated, overlooked point a lot of people are going to ignore: How about Westbrook devotedly giving the ball to Durant, possession after possession? ‘Round these parts it’s no storyline to try and point out Westbrook’s willingness to pass to KD and be a team player. But this game is an absolutely ideal example of that. Westbrook had a great game going in his own right, and truthfully, with KD struggling, probably should’ve looked a little more for his own. Instead, he stuck to the plan and focused on feeding his breadwinner, and it obviously paid off.
You know Russ had that little devil on his shoulder whispering, “Ignore him. Just go. Take this one. You’re an All-Star too. You deserve it. You’re just as good.” But he resisted the urge to freelance and got the ball to KD. But when an opportunity presented itself, Westbrook was ready, knocking down a big OT jumper with 2:49 left. Underrated game by Russ.
I’d say great win, but it really kind of wasn’t. Except it was. What a weird, thrilling, awesome, terrible, fun, exciting, frustrating, incredible, miserable, outstanding game.
- There are bad losses like the one in Washington. And then there are straight braindead ones like tonight’s in Dallas. That’s the lede I had written with about three minutes to go.
- In games like these, I’m bound to overlook a great play or something. So forgive me.
- Super underrated play: Serge Ibaka’s tip-out to Thabo who fed KD for that 3 in overtime. It was just relentless hustle on the boards to keep that ball alive. Awesome play.
- The Thunder really missed a number of opportunities to completely put this game away. They gave up a run to close the first half, then another late in the third, then obviously another to start the fourth.
- Westbrook quietly went for 31-6-6.
- That means Westbrook and Durant combined for 83 of OKC’s 117. Or roughly 70 percent.
- Russell Westbrook singing along to Ke$ha? Russell Westbrook singing along to Ke$ha.
- The Thunder clearly won this game at the line. At one point OKC made 24 consecutive free throws. Slip up there, and it’s over.
- The Thunder are now 28-0 on the season when leading after three quarters. Put that one to the test tonight though.
- I’m glad KD didn’t fib about knowing his numbers postgame with Lisa Salters. Because he tracks that stuff obsessively during the game. Knows every stat he’s got and when he doesn’t, he goes over to the scorekeeper to ask.
- Keep in mind, to go with tonight’s 52, which is the first 50-point game this season, KD has scored four other 40+ point games (most in the league) and has scored 40+ three times in his last five games.
- Really liked the design OKC had with 2.3 seconds left to win the game in regulation. Great timing, great screen by Perk and a fairly clean look for KD. Most other nights, he buries it.
- Goodness, the Mavs missed a bunch of good looks tonight, especially in the first half. Short runners, layups, open jumpers — they hurt themselves a lot tonight.
- Each time I see them, I dislike the Thunder’s alternates more. Especially when they played bad in them. Then they look worse.
- Solid joke from my buddy Brett: “Little known to anyone, KD actually dedicated this game to his recently deceased girlfriend Moaning Myrtle.”
- For just the fifth time in his career, KD attempted 30 or more shots. And what makes it crazy, two have come in the last seven days.
- Nobody defended Dirk all that well, but Perk definitely did the best job. Ibaka had a bad habit of overhedging on his man which allowed Dirk to flare for a clean jumper. Perk has a better feel of defensive spacing and was able to recover better.
- What gets into Vince Carter when he’s playing the Thunder? I mean, seriously.
- On the season, I think Westbrook is roughly 0-187 on backcourt steal attempts.
- I kind of wish Westbrook would go back to hammering down fast break dunks again and lose the finger roll thing. Or maybe he just needs to pretend somebody blew the whistle. Because after one tonight, he busted out this gorgeous windmill.
- The Mavs have to really, really hate Kevin Durant.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Some things are just wrong. And that, was wrong.”
Next up: At Denver on Sunday.