Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| July 13, 2007
LAS VEGAS - Late in the first half of Friday's NBA Summer League game against Golden State, Seattle SuperSonics rookie Kevin Durant had made just one of his 10 shot attempts, dropping him to 10-of-46 (21.7%) from the field in Las Vegas.
Then, suddenly, Durant took over the game with the kind of performance that made him the first freshman in NCAA history to win national player of the year honors. During the third quarter, Durant poured in 16 of the 22 points scored by the Sonics. He finished the game with 32 points, his NBA Summer League high. While Durant's final shooting line (9-for-23 from the field) was still unspectacular, he got to the free-throw line 16 times, converting 13.
"If you can get some easy baskets, I'll take them. I think those free throws and steals got me going a little bit."
Afterwards, Durant credited a stretch late in the first half where he got a dunk off a cut to the basket and took a steal coast to coast for another slam-dunk finish for helping get him going.
"If you can get some easy baskets, I'll take them," said Durant. "Going to the free-throw line, I'll take it. Anything to get me going. I think those free throws and steals got me going a little bit."
Durant had his first 30-point outing as a professional in front of a star-studded crowd. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James came to see Durant, sitting courtside. ("That's my man," explained Durant.) Meanwhile, Professional Basketball Club, LLC. Chairman Clayton Bennett was joined in his seats by Hall of Famer Bill Russell and, briefly, Sonics legend Gary Payton.
The legends and the rest of the fans in attendance at the Thomas & Mack Center got to see Durant shine on defense as well. He matched up with Warriors first-round pick Marco Belinelli, one of the stars of the NBA Summer League thus far who came into the game averaging 25 points in summer play. On this night, Belinelli was limited to 16 points and shot 9-off-22. He missed all nine of his attempts from beyond the three-point line.
Durant, who had four steals, was proud of his defensive effort.
"I try to pride myself on not letting my man score," said Durant. "He's a great player. You can see that's why he's been killing throughout the summer league. I just tried to bother him a little bit, use my length. I think I did a good job."
Still, Durant's performance wasn't enough to earn the Sonics their first win in Las Vegas. The Warriors pulled away with a 6-0 spurt to start the fourth quarter when Durant and fellow rookie Jeff Green were on the bench. The Sonics never again got within five points, losing 85-74 to fall to 0-4 heading into their NBA Summer League finale on Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
After Friday's game, Kevin Durant talked about his breakout performance.
"That's the ultimate goal, is just to get a win," Durant said. "We're getting better and better each game. Hopefully next game we can get a win and out in Salt Lake we can get a win."
While his play was overshadowed by Durant's monster game, Green put together another solid outing. He scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, including a tip for his second highlight dunk of the week.
"You saw the last quarter," said Durant. "We just gave him the ball and let him work. Nobody on our team has a problem with that, because we know he can score any time he touches the ball."
Beyond Durant and Green, the Sonics had a tough time finding scoring. Kenny Adeleke, starting a second straight game, had nine points and 11 rebounds. However, Durant, Green and Olu Famutimi (1-for-2 in limited minutes) were the only Sonics to shoot better than 33.3%. As a team, the Sonics connected at a 33.8% clip.
What kept the Sonics in the game were free throws (39 attempts in total) and rebounding (a 49-36 advantage over the Warriors). Six different players, including two reserves, grabbed at least five boards.