Kevin Durant said he wished for his 25-point streak to be over.
Wish granted, at the hands of the Sacramento Kings, who did it not by shutting him down, but by just being generally terrible.
In 31 minutes, Durant scored 23 on 8-13 shooting, but wasn’t called upon for fourth quarter duty as the Thunder’s scrappy second unit took an eight-point lead after three and built it to as many as 22. With a game of heavy importance looming, the easy night was certainly welcomed.
If anyone is to blame, it’s Caron Butler who played his best game in a Thunder uniform, scoring 23 on 8-10 shooting, which included 6-6 from 3. Obviously not exactly sustainable percentages, but it was at least another glimpse of what Butler can provide. The big question with Butler is getting that kind of production in the postseason, which is to be determined, but it’s apparent he’s capable of it. Butler’s always been a good offensive player, it was just about how much he had left to offer. And so far with the Thunder, while a lot of his offense has been inconsistent, his 3-point shooting has been pretty solid.
Butler’s game was Positive No. 1. Positive No. 2: Thabo Sefolosha returned after missing the last 18 games, playing 15 minutes. His line doesn’t jump — two points, 0-2 shooting, three rebounds and an assist — but having Sefolosha back did give the Thunder’s starting five a more natural look. His effort and defensive intensity were something the Thunder had missed dearly. Thabo just has a way and knack of making positive plays. Good to have him back.
Positive No. 3: The Thunder won. That was really the key, with the Clippers breathing down OKC’s neck for the No. 2 seed. There was a certain value on this game, one that you wouldn’t think would be there when playing the Kings, but with a big one at Staples 24 hours ahead, the Thunder had to handle business. Lose, and the Clippers could pull even on Wednesday. But a win and there’s at least a level of separation going in.
And maybe you could include KD’s streak ending as Positive No. 4. He seemed to be worn about it, growing tired of the attention it was drawing. At times you could see Durant pressing some, possibly with the streak lingering in his mind. But really, this is the best of all worlds. Durant topped Michael Jordan, and now the slate is clean and any possible distraction is wiped off the books. The streak ended in the way we all knew it would, too — with Durant not struggling to score, but instead choosing just not to score 25.
It all sets the stage for a big one tomorrow against the Clippers. The Thunder’s magic number for the No. 2 seed is four, and a win tomorrow takes that to two. But first things first was handling business at hand against the Kings, who even without Rudy Gay or Isaiah Thomas appeared a threat early on. Durant’s efficiency, Butler’s shooting and the Thunder’s high quality defense added up to a relatively easy, right-track kind of win.
Oh, and Positive No. 5: Durant played 31 minutes, Reggie Jackson played just 25, Serge Ibaka just 28, and of course Russell Westbrook sat. Basically, other than Durant getting his 25 — which he may have intentionally avoided — it was just about a perfect night for OKC.
- For the first time in the Thunder era, they didn’t have a turnover in the first half. They finished with just six, which is pretty darn good.
- There’s this: Durant has scored at least 20 in 50 straight games.
- Durant has also scored at least four points in 537 straight games, if you’re wondering.
- Here’s an astounding stat, via @CoreyDeMoss: Durant has gone 101 straight games with more points than shot attempts. That’s insane.
- Durant on the streak: “When I sit back after the season’s over, that’s when I’ll reflect on everything, what I’ve done, what the team’s done.”
- Steven Adams played a really nice game. His activity and energy were obvious, attacking the offensive glass and looking strong on the defensive end. He got 27 minutes, scoring five points with five rebounds and three blocks.
- There was a decent number of people tweeting blame at Scott Brooks for ending Durant’s streak. Good grief, people. If Durant wanted back in, he would’ve gotten back in. But there was no chance the Thunder were going to push for that.
- Another quality game from Serge Ibaka: 19 points on 8-16.
- Sometimes, DeMarcus Cousins shows you he’s really, really good.
- It wouldn’t be a Thunder game without someone setting a season-high. Travis Outlaw set a new one with 24.
- The Kings went to Hack-A-Kiwi in the second quarter, and at one point Adams played a game of tag with Jared Cunningham. Best part of the game.
- Nick Collison: seven points, seven rebound and three assists in 18 minutes.
- With Westbrook out, Jeremy Lamb got 17 minutes — 10 points on 4-9 shooting, and some good offense in the fourth quarter.
- I have to say, coming off the excitement of the last three games, this game was a welcome bore.
Next up: At the Clippers on Wednesday