With 1:23 left, Kevin Durant could see it happening. The Thunder were comfortably ahead of the Knicks, and despite Durant sitting on a near historic kind of line — 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists — Scott Brooks sent Jeremy Lamb to the scoretable to check in.
“One assist, right?” Durant said to Brooks, holding up a single finger. “I need one?”
Yep, he did need one. But he wasn’t going to get it. Instead, he’d have to settle for 40-10-9, something only accomplished now 21 times in NBA history. Oh, as well as a 112-100 win.
“It would’ve been cool to stay in. But whatever. We won the basketball game,” Durant said. “That’s all that matters. No doubt it would’ve been cool to get that but it’s all about the W and I’m glad we won.”
It wasn’t for lack of effort. Durant had three quality passes that probably should’ve resulted in at least one assist. One was a missed dunk by Serge Ibaka with about five minutes left. Another was a wide open 3 from Reggie Jackson in transition, and the last was Ibaka turning down a good midrange look with about three minutes left.
“I got on Serge, he missed a dunk and he passed up a shot,” Durant said with a little grin. “But we won the basketball game. It was a hard fought game, we played hard all the way through. That’s a good team over there. We tried not to look at their record because they’re a good team.”
Not hard to see a bit of a contrast here, though. Remember Carmelo Anthony’s 62-point game? In a complete blowout, he played the first five minutes of the fourth clearly hunting that number. Obviously there’s a bit less significance behind a 40-10-10 than setting a franchise scoring record, I REALIZE, but the message remains the same.
“Actually he did not [want to stay in]. He wanted Serge to shoot that,” Scott Brooks said. “KD’s a stat-filler. He’s going to have many games, many opportunities to have a large number of points, assists and rebounds. I’m never going to worry about personal records. It’s not something we do as an organization. It’s great if he does accomplish them within the flow of the game. But I think you do what’s right, and live with the results.”
That’s not the only contrast we saw in Durant and Melo today. Coming in, Anthony had a robust 11-1 record against Durant, something a bit inflated by the fact eight of those matchups were in KD’s first two seasons, but still, 11-1 is 11-1. Today though, it was a dominant illustration of the gap between the two players. First, Iman Shumpert started the game on Durant, while Durant guarded Anthony for most of the game. Durant put up his usual effortless scoring line, owning the game in basically every way. The other side, Anthony couldn’t find any room to breathe, going just 5-19 for 15 points, while being held scoreless in the fourth.
“If you want to play on this team, you’ve got to take pride on the defensive end,” Durant said. “[Melo] missed some shots he normally makes. But I just tried to played as hard as I can, contest his shot and not get discouraged when he hits them. Because he makes tough shots.”
Like his run at 40-10-10, of course Durant downplayed it. But it was obvious how wide the gap has become between the two players, both within their mental makeup, and their ability on the floor. Durant’s elevation as a complete player has been majestic, as Melo has remained the guy that can score in bunches with an array of different isolation moves. One has trended up, the other has mostly stayed where he is.
But like KD said, the win is the important thing. The Thunder bounced back from Friday night’s stunner and got back on track. That’s the thing to really care about. But we’re all petty here, and while Scott Brooks and KD may not, we all care about the individual crap. The win is good, but Durant sending another strong message to one of his basketball peers is what’s satisfying.
- Durant missing the triple-double is all Reggie Jackson’s fault. KD set him up for a WIDE open 3, which Jackson missed front iron. If he’s not failing to force feed KD the ball, he’s missing open shots set up by him. Get it together, Reggie.
- That is a joke, if you didn’t know.
- Fun sequence: KD picked up Melo full court late in the fourth quarter, and hounded him pretty good the entire way down the floor. So Melo decided to return the favor the next possession, picking up KD in the backcourt. Only KD has Kendrick Perkins has his buddy, who set an absolutely soul-crushing screen on Melo, that completely rocked him. After it, Melo first grimaced, then stopped and just kind of smiled.
- KD had his seventh 40-point game of the season. Second most in the NBA is a couple players tied with two. There’s also this, via Elias: “Kevin Durant has more 40-point games in his last 13 games (4) than anyone else in the NBA has all season.”
- More statporn: KD has scored 25 with at least four assists in 18 straight games. That’s the longest streak in 40 years, according to Elias.
- Good Reggie Jackson played for the Thunder today — 19 points on 8-15 shooting plus six assists to only one turnover. Said Jackson of his play: “I wish I was shooting better. Probably the first time I’ve been in a slump. But I’m not really concerned with that. I’m just focused on wins and losses. I’m pretty happy, I guess content overall with the way we’ve been playing.”
- KD missed four free throws in the first half, and five for the game. He’s only missed five in a game once previously in his entire career. Never six, though. He’s only missed four a total of seven times now.
- KD had his 33rd game today of scoring at least 20 points with five assists, which is the most in the NBA. He had 33 all of last season.
- Tyson Chandler really hurt OKC in the pick-and-roll today, primarily when Perk was on the floor.
- Serge Ibaka, once again terrific. In 35 minutes, 16 points on 8-11 with nine rebounds, three assists and a block. And really, I thought his defense defending pick-and-rolls was as good as I’ve seen it.
- Derek Fisher.
- (During the game, I type out notes and thoughts that I want to come back to after it. I had “Derek Fisher.” in there, and I have no idea why.)
- Bummer about Mo Cheeks. I highly doubt the Thunder will bring him back, as they made pretty significant changes with the staff, and it would be a bit awkward to bring the top assistant back and either have him on the end of the bench, or start demoting people.
- Durant hit a halfcourt shot after the whistle. He did not win $20,000 however. He did make about $200,000 today anyway, though.
- Thunder fans booed Metta World Peace when he came in. Overheard behind me: “Why are we booing him?” … “He elbowed James Harden, remember?” … “James Harden. Oh yeah.”
- Russell Westbrook went through a vigorous pregame workout, basically going full speed with jumpstops and jumpers. But Scott Brooks said that he’s not practicing full contact yet and that he’s still on track to return after the All-Star break.
Next up: At the Blazers on Tuesday