Turns out the only thing that could stop Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant.
Bringing an incredible streak of 12 straight games of scoring at least 30 points in, what finally ended up stopping it was him simply playing too well. In three quarters, Durant popped the Nets for 26 points on 10-12 shooting, plus seven assists. It was a limited 26, but it still featured that unnatural shot making and moments of electricity that we’re used to with Durant. Step-backs, lobs, creative finishes — he did it all, and did it effortlessly.
Funny thing is, if Durant could’ve matched Serge Ibaka’s shooting night, he would’ve gotten that 30. Ibaka went 12-12 for 25 points, plus nine rebounds, meaning those two players scored 51 points on 22-24 shooting. Fifty-one, on twenty-two of twenty-four shooting. That’s a bingo.
Heck, throw Jeremy Lamb and his 14 on 5-6 shooting into that, and that’s 65 points on 27-30. Even Perk flirted with a double-double (eight points, eight rebounds). However you want to look at the box score tonight, it shows a lot of good for the Thunder, and a lot of bad for the Nets. It took a 60-point second half for the Nets to get to 95, because after the first 24 minutes it was 63-35, and not even that close. Durant was reaping again, drawing oohs and ahhs with every shot, and when he wasn’t scoring, he was setting up clean looks for Ibaka.
Coming off the Heat game, there was a chance of letdown, a chance to drop in focus a bit. But there was none of it. The Thunder kept the train rolling, dismantling a Nets team that’s had an extremely positive month of January, and doing it in their building.
The Nets tried to play the Thunder like the Heat, starting Kevin Garnett at center and Paul Pierce at power forward, and while the game was moderately close early, fittingly, the OKC started to create its separation on six straight points from Perk. He scored three consecutive possessions, then was subbed out with 2:57 left in the first quarter and OKC up seven. From that point on, the Thunder went on a 23-9 run until he checked back in with 5:07 left in the first half.
But the Thunder didn’t take any steps back. Behind Durant and Ibaka, OKC kept rolling, eventually pumping the first half lead to 28 at the break, the largest road margin in the Thunder’s favor in the OKC era.
The second half, the only drama that remained was if Durant would get to his 30. But in a perfect illustration of the mindset Durant plays with, and really the reason he’s so damn good to start with, he never forced a thing with that number in mind, instead making the right pass and only taking shots when they were available. His ability to care so much about his numbers while still detach himself from them and play the right way is just a stunning ability to have. He’s cognizant of what he’s doing, but never lets it affect him in a negative way.
So while one streak ended, the important one carried on. That’s now 10 straight wins for the Thunder, and a January of 13-4 without Russell Westbrook. And like Durant’s night against the Nets, they had two that kind of got away from them (Nets and Blazers). Pretty good, I guess.
- Three times in January, KD didn’t score at least 30. Twice came against the Nets, for completely different reasons. Also, the last time he didn’t drop 30, it was because he sat the fourth quarter (he had 21 against the Celtics Jan. 5).
- Durant’s January: 35.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 55-42-89 shooting splits.
- Per Elias, KD becomes the first player to average 35-6-6 in a full month since MJ in Nov. 1988.
- Russell Westbrook is set to return in about two weeks. Think about that. This team is adding a top five player to it in two weeks.
- The first game after Russ comes back where he takes more shots than KD is going to be hilarious.
- Two straight games wearing the home whites with black shoes? Forget Durant’s 30-point thing. That was my favorite streak of the season.
- Jason Kidd tried to find a spark by putting Reggie Evans in the game in the second quarter. And Perk guarding him like he was guarding himself. As in, he wasn’t.
- That moment where Perk scored six straight in the first quarter and then caught the ball at the top of the key in rhythm, wide open. I honestly though, for just a split second, that he was going to shoot it. How I wish he would’ve.
- Something I’ve always wondered: If the Thunder are playing on national TV, why would you ever watch the local broadcast?
- Ibaka’s 12-12 tonight brought back plenty of memories of his 11-11 in the Western Finals against the Spurs in Game 4. Good times.
- The record for most makes in a game without a miss: 18-18 by, who else, Wilt Chamberlain.
- While Ibaka didn’t get there, he still has a shot at the record for most overall makes without a miss. That’s 35 by, who else, Wilt Chamberlain.
- The Nets having only 17 rebounds probably coincided with OKC shooting 63.6 percent from the floor.
- Perry Jones was quietly excellent once again. Really nice defense, good energy and was it just me or did it look like he was playing with a lot more confidence? Jones was aggressive and played with a bit of force finally.
- Didn’t matter, but Reggie Jackson didn’t have the best game, but not a bad one either. Finished 6-15 for 14 points, but did have seven assists.
- Six Thunderers in double-figures tonight.
- So, should Scott Brooks have left Durant in to go for 30? The only reasonable reason to have done so is if KD wanted it. Otherwise, it would’ve been counter to the culture and philosophy of the team, and silly because of risk of injury. The Thunder preach and believe that no player is bigger than the team or organization (even though we all know that’s a bit dumb), and to leave Durant in just to accomplish an individual thing would’ve run opposite of that. It was the right move for KD to come out. Stinks that’s the way it ended, but considering how many times last season he sat fourth quarters after scoring 22 or 23 only to see Melo beat him for the scoring title, it was fitting for it to finish like this.
- New streak: KD’s scored at least 20 in 21 straight.
- Both Derek Fisher 3s he put up tonight, I thought they were going in. So I didn’t say anything. My bad.
Next up: At the Wizards on Saturday