New Year’s Eve in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant had 36 points entering the fourth quarter on 12-21 shooting as a Westbrook-less Thunder led the Blazers by seven. The last 12 minutes, Durant scored one point on 0-5 shooting, and the Thunder let a double-digit lead slip, going 4-20 as a team. It was an ugly, deflating, disappointing loss.
Tonight, sitting on 32 on 12-19 after three tonight against Portland, Durant wasn’t going to let that happen again.
He scored 14 of his 46 in the final frame, and did it on 5-6 shooting, which included a flurry of 3s in the final three minutes. The fire was lit after KD was called for an iffy charge, to which he walked to the sideline, ripped off an expletive and slammed his hand on the scoretable. He was whistled for a technical foul with 3:15 left and the Thunder down 93-90.
After that, Durant scored 11 on 4-4 shooting. You won’t like KD when he’s not nice.
“It was really a stupid reaction by me,” Durant said of the tech. “I could’ve hurt my team badly, but luckily Lillard missed the free throw. I was just more frustrated with myself, turning the ball over. I can’t hurt my team like that. This time it went in our direction but next time I’ve got to be smarter.”
Yeah come on, KD. Quit hurting your team. Geez.
Forty-six points on 17-25 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. I can’t. I can’t even.
Mo Williams said it best after the game: “The way he was playing, he probably could have scored on Jesus.”
But you know Durant. He says he’s just a piece of the 46-point puzzle. A small one, in fact.
“Screens being set for me. Passes on time and on target. Perk is giving his body up for me, Serge is giving his body up, Steven, Nick, the bigs are doing a great job of getting me open,” he said. “My teammates do a great job of setting me up. It’s far more than just me. It’s a small part actually what I do. It’s moreso the plays coach calls, the screens being set, the passes being passed. I think the end result is just on me trusting in the work to knock down shots.”
It’s getting to the point now that when Durant misses, we all look around at each other and say “the eff was that?” The chemistry between KD and the arena is incredible, because all 18,000 can feel exactly the moment he starts feeling it. After he popped that frog-legged 3 with 2:54 left to tie the game at 95-95, Chesapeake Energy Arena knew it was on. It was only a matter of the Thunder getting a few stops and letting Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant.
Said Scott Brooks of what KD’s doing: “That’s one of the big reasons I started wearing my glasses during the games is so that I can see it.”
But here’s a funny thing about this game: Durant is obviously the story and his electrifying outburst is what popped out eyes out of our heads, but Reggie Jackson actually gave the Thunder a 97-95 lead, then three consecutive blocks, including a basket-saving one by Kendrick Perkins on Damian Lillard, which led to a dagger baseline jumper by… Kendrick Perkins with 1:36 left. Durant did the heavy lifting, but the two most important buckets of the game came from Jackson and Perk. Basketball, man.
“A lot of you guys don’t know the small things he does for us, his intelligence on both ends of the floor,” Durant said of Perk. “To hit a huge shot like that, especially a jumpshot. A lot of people I heard screaming ‘no’ when he shot it in the stands, but he had so much confidence in himself, and we had confidence in him. That was a huge shot. He played hard defense all game and to see him get rewarded with that was pretty refreshing. I’ll ride with Perk until the wheels fall off. I’m glad he hit that shot.”
Another stop, another Durant 3, this one a walk-up right in Nicolas Batum’s face at the top of the key. Rinse and repeat. Another stop, another 3 in Batum’s mouth. After that last one, Durant ran back to the bench actually laughing. It was his version of a shoulder shrug, as if to say, “I can’t believe I’m this freaking good at this game.”
“I’m just having fun out there. I’m blessed to play this game,” Durant said. “So every moment I’m on the court is fun for me no matter how the game’s going. When you play this game and you look to the bench and you see your teammates so happy for you, all I can do is smile because I know they’re genuinely happy for me, for the team. It’s a great feeling when you have a group of brother supporting you no matter what, so that’s what I’m smiling for.”
KD says he’s blessed to play basketball. We’re blessed we get to watch him.
- To recap Perk’s final two minutes: Blocked Lillard to save two, hit a dagger baseline jumper, then picked off an inbounds pass. I don’t even know what is going on right now.
- Also, there’s this: LaMarcus Aldridge went 1-9 in the fourth quarter while exclusively being checked by Perk. He was 11-17 heading into the final frame.
- I don’t think Perk’s defense dramatically improved or anything in the fourth when Aldridge missed some of those shots. It’s just that, Aldridge missed some of those shots. The ones he made in the first half were ridiculously contested with Perk playing pretty good defense on all of them. In the fourth, Perk was right there again, but the percentages started winning out and he missed those contested looks.
- Brooks on Perk: “I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m pretty good with chemistry. And that’s what he brings.”
- Perk on his shot: “I was going to shoot it regardless. I knew Reggie when he drove the first time and got a floater, I had seen that the big helped off when he floated. He looked at me and said pass it to me, so I was like, if you pass it to me it’s going up. So I just shot it. I work on that shot every day at practice.”
- Brooks opened his postgame presser by saying, “How’d you guys like that play I drew up for Perk?” Tongue firmly planted in cheek.
- Lillard got a layup to go with 20 seconds left, but it was over. The Thunder were up eight, and Durant, whose hand was emanating heat that could be felt in Tulsa, dribbled out the final 15 seconds as the Blazers watched. It was the most badass move of the night. Like taking a knee on the one-yard line one yard away from a 300-yard game.
- Serge Ibaka didn’t keep on with his 20-point string, finishing with 10 on 4-15 shooting. The last three games, Ibaka had missed 10 total shots and no more than four in a game. Still, he had five game-changing blocks and was engaged the entire game, scoring a few big buckets.
- Oh, that’s eight straight games for Durant with 30 or more. And five games this season with more than 40. Four of them have come this month. And there’s this one from Ben Golliver: Durant’s scored 46 or more four times this season. The last guy to do that in a single season was Dwyane Wade in 2008-09.
- Remember how Reggie Jackson used to finish everything he threw up at the rim it seemed? Well, he’s not anymore. He finished 7-18 for 15 points, but missed a bunch of shots in the restricted area.
- I will say this: Jackson played pretty well. He had five assists and seven rebounds and handled the offense really well down the stretch.
- That Collison to Adams alley oop. The brothers were bashing.
- Adams was quietly terrific. In 17 minutes he had four points and six boards, and was all over the offensive glass in the second quarter. He got credited with two offensive rebounds, but created at least five.
- Durant had 15 in the first quarter on 6-8 shooting. His teammates? They had six on 2-13 shooting.
- Robin Lopez just does not run right.
- How great was that first half? Six combined turnovers and only eight combined fouls. It took a total of 45 minutes in real time. And KD scored 20 on 8-11 in it. I want to make out with that first half.
- The Thunder finished with just seven turnovers. That was important.
- After fouling out the last three games, Steven Adams didn’t pick up his first foul until 10:34 left in the fourth quarter.
- KD only played 17 minutes in the first half. And it was because the flow of the game never let him back in. Without any fouls or any turnovers, two minutes went by with Durant at the scoretable trying to check in.
- Perk on KD: “I don’t know man. I’ve played with some pretty good players, but what he is doing right now is on a whole other level.”
- Russell Westbrook was wearing the tightest suit jacket possible tonight. If he just drank a large glass of water, it probably would’ve ripped in half.
- I think we’re learning why Scott Brooks seemingly inexplicably favors Derek Fisher over Reggie Jackson at times: defense. Not that Fisher is some lockdown guy because lol, but he certainly competes in a different way on the defensive end than Jackson does.
- With his 17-25 and 6-7 from 3 performance, Durant is over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 again. He’s at 88 percent from the line. He’s looking at averaging 31 on 50-40-90 right now. What what what.
- Can I tell you guys something? I’m starting to worry a little about something kind of stupid. No, I’m not wondering if the Thunder could be better without Westbrook because if anyone even dares ask that dumb of a question, they should be given a swift kick in the butt. But I do have a little building anxiety that when Westbrook returns and Durant’s numbers naturally come back down to this planet — PROBABLY — that some of that ridiculous chatter about Russ may return. The foundation of it will simply be because we’re all selfish and want to see Durant do this kind of thing all the time. But life is better with Russell Westbrook next to Kevin Durant. Trust me. So let’s all agree right here right now to not do any of that.
- Fun fact: Before the game another writer told me the over/under for KD scoring tonight was 33.5. I said there’s no way I’d take that over. No way you could actually bet on KD putting up absurd numbers again. The lesson: Always bet the over on KD. Always.
Next up: At the Spurs on Wednesday