Durant Shows Complete Game in Thunder Win
The San Antonio Spurs, who trailed by as much as 15 points with 5:31 remaining in third quarter, were within six points, 102-96, with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining in the game following a 3-point shot from Kawhi Leonard.
But Durant was in what athletes refer to as “the zone,” and everybody knew it: The Thunder, the Spurs, the 18,203 fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena. Durant had just scored the last 16 Thunder points from every spot on the court, and the ball was back in his hands with just over a minute to play.
The Spurs immediately double-teamed Durant, but he drew the defense to him and kicked the ball out to James Harden, who was left alone behind the 3-point line. Harden drilled the shot, the Thunder was up 105-96 with 1:04 to play and Durant had his game-high eighth assist.
“It was terrific that Kevin did a good job closing out the game,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said after the Thunder evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with a 109-103 victory. “But Kevin’s about winning. He’s not about scoring 16 points in a row. If he would have had 15 assists or making the right play, he’s happy with that. He’s a team player, and he’s only getting better.”
Durant, the NBA’s three-time scoring leader, had just eight points at halftime and had taken just four shots.
“I wasn’t freezing him out, trust me,” Brooks said. “I’d like him to shoot more than four times. But with Kevin, it’s not about shots. It’s about playing very consistent with some toughness and making plays for his team. … I give him credit. He opened up the defense by making passes.”
Durant’s fourth-quarter outburst started following a Thunder time out with 6:53 remaining in the game. The Spurs had pulled within 86-82 on a Tim Duncan basket, and Brooks wanted to halt their momentum.
He hit a 16-foot fadeaway jumper, and followed that with an 8-foot fadeaway and a 9-foot fadeaway that became a three-point play and pushed the Thunder lead to 93-87 with 4:47 to play.
He was only getting warmed up. Durant made shots from shots from 8, 4, 2 and 17 feet – he would miss only one shot during this stretch -- to push the lead to 102-93 with 1:32 remaining.
“I didn’t tell myself that I need to go score, because what we were doing was working,” Durant said. “We were passing the ball and guys were making shots.
“I wouldn’t say I carried us. We made a good effort to play together. We had 27 assists. That comes from moving the ball and making the right plays. I think doing that for the first three quarters kind of opened it up for me in the fourth, and I was able to make some shots.”
Said Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, when asked if Durant seemed to take over the game: “It didn’t seem like that, that was a fact. I was there. I saw it. He was great. We tried to do a couple of different things, but his play was better than anything we did defensively, that’s for sure. He finished it off in fine fashion.”