You know, it’s almost like Kevin Durant is beginning to make a habit of this whole “swat your shot, take it the length of the floor and hammer home a dunk on your head” thing. Last week, he did it to Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks; this week, he did it to Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and the Dallas Mavericks.
And, I mean, he really did it to Chris Kaman.
Those were just two — a very loud two, but still, two all the same — of Durant’s 13 third-quarter points, which the offensively sluggish Oklahoma City Thunder (KD’s teammates chipped in just 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting in the frame) sorely needed to keep themselves within hailing distance of the Mavericks. Without Durant’s 13 — on four field-goal attempts, mind you, thanks to a 6-for-6 mark from the charity stripe — Dallas might have run away and hid after shooting 57 percent of their shots en route to a 36-point third. (OKC’s defense was pretty sluggish, too.)
Instead, they were within eight points entering the fourth, close enough that a slight clampdown and a bit of offensive burst could push them to a win in a game that they, as a team, hadn’t really deserved. Durant provided that, too, torturing all manner of Dallas defenders with 13 more points in the fourth quarter, bringing OKC to the brink of victory, only to see Collison — who roasted ex-UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook for most of the night, scoring 32 points (three off his career high) and adding five rebounds, four assists and four steals — send it to overtime with a once-in-a-lifetime answered prayer.
Westbrook finally got on track in the final five minutes, scoring eight of his 16 points, making a huge steal of an ill-advised pass by O.J. Mayo (who had a nightmarish finish), and diving on the floor to grab a loose ball and call a timeout to seal the Thunder’s 111-105 overtime win. As such, he’s the headline item in most game stories … even on a night where Durant posted his second 40-point game of the season — and his second in as many weeks, following that win over Atlanta — while adding eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks in a game-high 49 minutes.
Maybe that’s because, like the defense-into-offense full-court throwdown he put on the Mavs in the third quarter, we’ve just kind of come to expect the ridiculous and dominant from the 24-year-old forward, as Darnell Mayberry wrote at The Oklahoman:
[...] it took Thunder coach Scott Brooks more than three minutes to even mention Durant’s name during his media session.
“Is he an afterthought?” Brooks asked. “I could mention him every game. But you get bored with that. Every game you could say KD had a great game and he did a lot of great things for us to put us in position.”
This, it seems, is what happens when your extraordinary becomes ordinary.
And that’s why, when 30 a night is just assumed, it’s worth it to look less at the final box score than at how it all came to pass — the three points in the last two minutes before halftime to help get OKC within a bucket at intermission rather than down several scores, as they’d been throughout much of the first half; the seven points in 64 seconds between 3:14 and 2:10 of the third to keep Dallas from running away; the hustling, attacking approach on both ends of the floor that enables a good team to hang around until someone else can take it home. You look at the plays, like that third-quarter block, drive and dunk, where he did it all himself because on this night, records be damned, he kind of had to.
“That was probably my favorite play,” Durant told Mayberry after the game.
It’s easy to see why just by looking at it, but it’s even easier if you read between the lines a bit.
If the clip above isn’t rocking for you, feel free to peruse the end-to-end brilliance elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.