Kevin Durant said it perfectly in his postgame interview: “We were playing terrible.”
Yes, yes they were. They were down basically from tipoff, and dropped behind as many as 15 to the deeply wounded and tanktastic Lakers, as they had that kind of glazed over look an elite team has with a night to go before All-Star Weekend.
But guess what: Derek Fisher hit a 3 with 41 seconds left in the third, and after it, the Thunder went on a 22-5 run to eventually take their first lead of the game, 89-87, with 6:16 left in the fourth.
The big change? The Reaper arrived. Durant’s layup put the Thunder up, then he canned a 3 to put OKC up five, then got two free throws, then his step-back jumper to put OKC back up with 3:15 left, then hit a deep 3 with 2:02 left to put OKC back up five. All part of 19 points in the fourth quarter of his 43-point, 12-rebound and 7-assist evening at Staples. Yawwwwwn.
Durant wasn’t his typical wonderfully efficient self, needing 33 attempts to get there, but this game was a nice illustration of life with KD. Even when it’s off, it’s just one bucket away from being turned right back on. After going 9-22 in the first three quarters and 0-8 from 3, Durant finished 5-11, and 3-5 from 3 in the fourth quarter. Maybe the most important play of the game was Scott Brooks clearly drawing up a 3-point look for KD to open the fourth for the Thunder off a high curl, to which he nailed. That shot obviously got him going, and was the appropriate foreshadowing of the impending reaping that was to come.
Another big change in this game: Brooks put Andre Roberson in with 5:00 left in the third. Brooks was obviously sick of watching lackluster effort, so he called upon his eager, energetic rookie for a spark. In 13 straight minutes on the floor before he was subbed with 3:33 left in the fourth, Roberson was a +13, playing a massive role in the run that brought the Thunder back. The Lakers were hilariously sloppy with the ball, but the lineup of Fisher, Roberson, Lamb, Durant and Collison/Ibaka created a lot of problems with their length, forcing nine Laker turnovers in the final 12 minutes.
Still, the Lakers were resilient, hitting circus shots and persisting against common sense to win this game. It’s almost a shame, in a twisted way, that Chris Kaman missed a potential game-tying free throw with 22.5 seconds left, because we would’ve been treated to one of the best moments in all of sports: Tie game with the shot clock off, and the ball in Kevin Durant’s hands. A night after LeBron James did this and got people saying things, the thought of KD answering it with his own vicious step-back was tantalizingly fantastic.
Alas, Kaman missed after a lengthy conversation with teammate Shawne Williams (seriously, wtf was that?), Durant secured the rebound and it was about making a few free throws to ice the Thunder’s 43rd win of the season, and the best record in the league heading into the All-Star break.
- What’s the amount you’re allowed to feel horrible about a win?
- The Derek Fisher Momentum Swing 3-Pointer is real, and it’s fantastic.
- Here’s how far things have come with Fisher: He was 2-7 from 3 in 22 minutes, but I feel like he played wonderfully and when Brooks brought Reggie Jackson back late and sat Fisher, I was a little agitated about it. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
- Fisher in a four-point win: +19.
- How insanely stupid is it that Durant went for 43-12-7 and it’s obvious that he could’ve played so much better? It’s stupidly stupid.
- That’s Kevin Durant’s eighth game with at least 40 this season. Next closest in the league is Kevin Love with three.
- Bad thing: Durant had six turnovers tonight, giving him 14 in his last two games.
- This may not make sense, but the way Durant put on a show a night after LeBron put on one reminds me of how things would go the last few years. It always seemed like KD would bust out and get everyone talking, then LeBron would just one-up him the next game. The tables have turned a bit.
- Just the eighth game of KD’s career he’s taken 30 or more shots. Four have come this season, all in games without Russell Westbrook. The Thunder’s record in those eight games: 5-3.
- Also: Durant makes it 34 games this season with at least 20 points and five assists, most in the NBA. Had 33 all of last season.
- Russell Westbrook’s shirt looked like the collar was intentionally stretched out. Why would anyone want a shirt like that?
- After Serge Ibaka went on a stretch playing probably the best of his career, he had another rough offensive night shooting 4-9 for 10 points and seven rebounds. But five blocks was very good, and very important.
- Jeremy Lamb was just 3-10, but he hit some big shots, including that 3 early in the fourth in transition that cut the lead to three. That was really the moment it looked like the Thunder were actually back in the game.
- KD’s changed his shoes at half. Wore the Aunt Pearl colorways honoring his deceased aunt in the first half.
- You know the Lakers suck when they look across and see Derek Fisher and say, “Hey, he could help.”
- Theory: Reggie Jackson just wants to fill the James Harden role so bad that he’s intentionally not trying on defense.
- Early in the game, Ibaka had a nice chasedown block on Shawne Williams, and Kevin Harlan and Mike Fratello absolutely had no idea that the ball did not go in. Even after a replay, they didn’t see it. Most amazing moment of the game.
- KD with 43 in OKC’s 43rd win. OMG SO PERFECT.
- Because I got asked again tonight: People, coaches don’t “showcase” players for a trade. Scott Brooks put Roberson in because he wanted a spark. Everything isn’t within the context of a trade.
- Although, watching Roberson dog defenders and play so well does make you wonder just a littttttle bit about Thabo with the deadline approaching. I don’t think Thabo’s going anywhere because Roberson is lol on offense and probably not ready for important playoff minutes, but it does at least put the thought out there.
- How was Kendall Marshall both cut, and then without an NBA team for most of this season? How? Either Mike D’Antoni really is that much of an offensive genius, or some GMs reaallllllllly whiffed.
- Important thing: NBA.com box scores now have SportVU player tracking stats. For instance, KD tonight went 10-22 on contested shots, and 4-11 on uncontested, proving he missed a bunch of good looks.
- Also, if you felt like the Lakers were just hitting a bunch of shots, they went 24-42 on contested shots (57.1 percent) and 16-41 on uncontested (39.0 percent). This box score innovation is going to ruin my marriage.
Next up: All-Star Weekend