Daily Thunder

KD shows up big as OKC steals Game 2, 77-75


I was ready. For the first time I can ever remember, I was ready.

I was ready to rip on Kevin Durant.

As Oklahoma City’s offense threw up all over itself in the second half of Game 2 he was strangely passive, kicking out off drives, not looking to score and just sort of floating. With six minutes left in the fourth, he had taken only nine shots. Nine!

But that’s why you don’t question KD. It was a big moment and his team needed something from him. So he showed up. Should’ve known.

He scored five of the Thunder’s final nine points as the Thunder closed on a 9-0 run to improbably, impossibly, incredibly take Game 2 right out from under the Lakers’ feet.

“It’s tough to find a real balance, especially in the playoffs,” Durant said. “I remember Game 1 and 2 against Dallas I was shooting too much. Trying to find my shot. Game 3 I let it come to me and find our guys. Maybe tonight I was over-passing but I think it freed me up a little in the fourth to make that shot. But I’m going to continue play off my teammates and shoot when I’m supposed to and be aggressive in the fourth.”

It’s like Durant’s game made complete sense all of a sudden. Like someone had shown me the secrets of the universe and I understood. For the first 42 minutes, I was wondering where he was, why he wasn’t trying to take over, why he wasn’t owning this game and stepping up when the Thunder needed it. But that’s because I’m an idiot, and he’s Kevin Durant. He knew with possessions being worth their weight in gold that he couldn’t force things. He tried one pull-up 3 with 2:29 left that was definitely forced. It was almost like he needed that one to just feel like himself again.

The game Durant played wasn’t his typical kind of night with 30 points on 22 shots, but it also was incredibly efficient. He finished with 22 points on 15 shots in a game with a pace of 85.0. That’s essentially a 30-point-on-22-shot game in a regularly paced affair. He was probably giving it up a bit too much at times, but like he said, you’re trying to make sure everything is in rhythm, that it’s unforced. It’s not as easy as just pulling up over someone from 22 feet and dropping a sweet jumper. KD makes it seem ridiculously simple that way at times, which is why I think we expect to see it.

“It’s a fine line,” said Scott Brooks about Durant’s passing. “I was having trouble telling him this, but he was looking to pass too much tonight. Do you tell your players to stop passing? But he was passing up good looks to get the same look.”

There’s something to be said for showing up in those moments. KD has something in him, where he’s not going to back down. I’m resisting the urge to mention another fantastic player right here that doesn’t seem to have that same something. Whereas he floats and often doesn’t snap out of it, Durant had no trouble waking up. And it’s not even as if he had to snap out of something. It’s just like he said, “OK, fine, now I got this.”

It took a lot though for the Thunder to even give Durant the chance to rescue them again. The Thunder trailed by seven with 2:08 left looking dead in the water and about to give away a most disappointing Game 2. They were 7-27 from the field in the second half and had re-introduced the halfcourt offense from hell that was based around isolation, turnovers and missed jumpers. Scott Brooks called timeout, and sent his boys back on to the floor.

James Harden immediately responded with a much-needed driving layup. 75-70. Ten seconds later, KD used his go-go-gadget arms to snatch a pass from Kobe and take it to the other end for a dunk. 75-72. Harden came up with a huge block on Kobe, then immediately turned around to hit another difficult layup. 75-74. Another stop and there the Thunder were with the ball, down one, 30 seconds left.

They had been here before. And just like Game 1 against Dallas, the rim played friend to KD, swirling his baseline Doodle Jump jumper in to put OKC up a point with 18 seconds left. The Lakers tried to isolate Kobe on Thabo, wasted a ton of time, Thabo took OKC’s foul to give with five seconds left and the ball found Steve Blake in the corner for an open 3, to which he clanged.

There’s one thing you can definitely see in this Thunder team though — they’ve grown. They’re tough as nails, built out of guts, heart, whiskey, more guts, adamantium and a little bit of dynamite. They’re one gritty group. To find it within to pull out games like these, while somewhat disconcerting see as, say, the Spurs won’t be as forgiving, still is extraordinarily impressive. They’ve built up pressure equity, where they believe as a group they can pull it off no matter the circumstance. They know someone is going to make a play. They know someone is going to get it done. They believe in self, and each other. It’s an incredible quality to have in a team, and the kind of intangible that’s necessary in a playoff run. These boys have grown up.

2-0, Thunder. Somehow.


Next up: Game 3 in LA Friday.


Royce Young
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