Breaking Down 'The Shot': 'It Saved the Game for Us'
The Dallas Mavericks’ defense forced Durant to break the play. Instead, he fought his way to the 3-point line and caught the pass from guard Russell Westbrook with 9.0 seconds to play and the Thunder down, 98-97.
“My job was easy,” Westbrook said. “Just find a way to get the ball to Kevin.”
Taking advantage of a screen from center Kendrick Perkins, Durant drove hard to his right, ignored a clean 3-point look and instead dribbled to his left and down to the free-throw line. With three-plus seconds remaining, Durant elevated and released a high-arcing, one-handed shot over the Mavs’ Shawn Marion that would bounce off the rim and backboard before sliding through the net with 1.5 seconds remaining, putting the Thunder up, 99-98, and sending the Thunder bench and 18,203 dressed in Thunder blue into an all-out frenzy.
“It was a great shot. It saved the game for us,” guard James Harden said.
“It was contested, but great players make tough shots. That’s what he has to do,” added Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.
The shot capped a rally that saw the Thunder fight back from a seven-point deficit with 2 minutes, 31 seconds remaining. More importantly, it gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Monday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It also showed the development in Durant’s game.
“I just didn’t want to settle for a three, so I tried to take it closer and shoot a shot,” he said. “I got enough arc on it to go in.”
Said Brooks: “One of the things about Kevin, he’s always improving. … I like the fact that he drove to the basket to an area that he can make that shot.”
Durant finished the night with 25 points, eight coming in the final quarter. Just as impressive was his work on the defensive end of the court. Durant finished with four blocked shots.
“Kevin’s blocks were huge. He saved eight points,” Brooks said. “Those blocks were all at the rim. His defense was a big part of this win.”
“I tried to help my teammates as much as possible,” Durant said. “We have a touch cover with those guys. We just tried to contest shots at the rim. Serge is going to do it, but if I help out as well that just adds another dimension to our team. I was lucky to get my hands on a few basketballs. We just played hard.”