There are always a few heroes to every tough postseason win, but Kevin Durant was so good, so unstoppable in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points out of his game high 36 that it eclipsed every good thing anyone on the Thunder or Spurs’ team did or tried to, leading Oklahoma to a 109-103 win, tying the series in 2-2.
This just might be the Thunder’s biggest postseason win in Oklahoma City, and the franchise’s biggest since the 1996 NBA Playoffs, the last time the Seattle Supersonics reached the NBA finals, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 6 games. The Thunder didn’t make it past the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs.
As Russell Westbrook continues to disprove any good notion anyone ever had about him and his offensive abilities; As James Harden continues to struggle from the field with his shot selection, it was Kevin Durant who shone and took the ball time after time, enjoying great mismatches in the Spurs defense created by good screens and bad rotations, scoring 16 consecutive points to finish off the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth.
He was automatic from the line all night, 9-9. He had six rebounds and 8 assists, giving that all-around production so many people want to see more from him; to be like LeBron. But Durant can do some things James can’t. Nobody in the league can pull up for shots and create separation with his long arms and great hop immediately after catching the ball. He used that perfectly in the final minutes of the game, as it felt the small Spurs lineup was playing against one player during the Thunder possessions.
More importantly, it was his decision making – shot making and realizing the situations, mismatches and everything happening around him. There was no hesitation as he came off a screen, seeing Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili guarding him, immediately attacking the basket and creating separation for a comfortable shot or floater. His pick n rolls with Ibaka and Perkins were perfect, finding the two time after time in the paint.
That was the surprise contribution that made up for Westbrook and Harden combining for 18 points and 6-23 from the field. Serge Ibaka was perfect, building on his success from Game 3 and getting the attention of Tim Duncan, scoring 26 points while not missing a single shot from the field or the line. He kept hitting the long range jumpers that throw the entire Spurs defensive conception off balance.
Maybe even more surprising was Kendrick Perkins being such a factor offensively. Usually the second most criticized member of the team after Westbrook for his effort, defense and decisions on bad days, Perkins was huge with 15 points and 9 rebounds, proving to be very successful in the switches and his defense.
Durant will be the stuff of legends and hall of fame speeches when his career is through. But the turn around in the series has been the defense, and a lot of credit has to go to Russell Westbrook, who is ignoring his struggles on offense by giving up for the team and doing an incredible job, with a lot of help, on Tony Parker. The Spurs can’t get Parker and Ginobili to produce like in the first two games. No spacing of the floor for long stretches, which doesn’t free up players for easy shots.
The Thunder have figured out a way, at home at least, to handle the offense that looked unstoppable for nearly two months of basketball, beating a team that won 20 consecutive games twice in a row. On the offensive side of the ball it’s not pretty in terms of order and organized basketball, but Kevin Durant is so good he makes up for it.