For forty-one games in a row, Kevin Durant scored twenty-five points or more. It’s been some fifty odd years since anyone has done that. It’s been regurgitated over and over, but not one of his contemporaries, the guys against which Durant has usually been judged, have shown that kind of consistent scoring ability. Not LeBron, not Kobe, not McGrady, not Dirk — Durant did something that none of them have ever done before.
He bested Jordan, and had he not sat the final quarter against the Kings on Tuesday, we’d probably only be a few days away from talking about a guy who passed Oscar Robertson on that 25+ list. He’d have likely never reached Wilt, but that was another time entirely and Wilt was an alien to his generation.
To look at Durant’s game today is to look at a man becoming fully realized within his profession. I say becoming, not because he’s not already great — he’s a chilly assassin – but because there is more to come. He will get better. He’s only 25 years old, three years away from an NBA players’ supposed prime. He is a problem. This assassin is going to acquire a few more knives.
The scoring does not tell the full story with Durant, though. Not anymore. It used to, but those days are gone now. To go all Hubie on you: you love this guy because what you have with him now is he’s going to get you the rebounds and the assists and he’s always going to play with great spirit and great pace. It’s the efficiency. Now you look at him, you’re going to get more consistent defensive effort. Now you get more to watch, more to deal with.
There’s a fluidity to his game these days that has not been there in years past. In part, because he was forced to become a primary ball handler for a squad without its All NBA point guard, but his handle, like his game, has evolved.
Last year against the Rockets, his handle was deployed out of necessity, his movements with the ball largely robotic at times. If he wasn’t lulling a defender to sleep, trying to catch them napping so he could rise up over them, he was putting his head down, putting the ball on the floor, and trying to get to the rim. There was little nuance to his dribble drives. That’s not so now.
Now he gets to those in between spots, and he gets there off the bounce. Where before he’d only get attempts from there in pin down situations — Krstic or Perk or Collison getting him loose – he can shake himself free now off the dribble and find those medium spots. The ones that it takes patience and time to realize exist. He’s got the ball on a string now, and that’s a major reason for all the assists. He’s finally realized how to use the amount of attention he attracts. He breaks down people off the bounce, gets into the heart of everything, and drops off stuff for bigs waiting for their men to go help.
You see him getting the hockey assists that used to be reserved for bigs requiring a double, or Cleveland era LeBron. The ones where he feels people cheating his way, fires one over the defense to the backside wing, the defense scrambles, and the wing passes it to the corner for a wide open three in the face of a half-hearted-much-too-late closeout. He sees other things than just the rim now.
Over the course of the streak, this was his line: 34.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 6.1 APG.
It’s hard to get more a more gaudy line over the course of 40+ games in today’s NBA. That’s a man stuffing a stat sheet till it’s full then making it go back to the buffet for seconds. Kevin Durant makes box scores obese.