There’s no real rest for Kevin Durant unless the Oklahoma City Thunder are able to close out a game early. He had things firmly in control before being sent to the bench for the rest of the game, doing most of the work early on in the 108-93 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Durant didn’t try and get to the 54 points from two nights prior to the game, but having him playing as a facilitator wasn’t a better option for the Kings. He scored 30 points, adding 6 rebounds and 9 assists in 32 minutes. Serge Ibaka helped out with 20 points on 9-of-13 from the field (shooting 73% from the field over the last three games); Reggie Jackson added 16 points (25% from the field) while Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison all finished the game in double-figures.
My teammates were setting screens for me. We were seeing something in pick-and-roll. Serge was doing a great job of slipping out of it and knocking down shots. I was trying to be aggressive and put pressure on the rim and the defense and if they draw in, I kick it out and if not, I try to lay the ball in, take a good shot.
Isiah Thomas of the Kings might have been the one putting in the most impressive individual performance, scoring 38 points. He’s quite hot this season against the Thunder: He scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of the earlier meeting, then scored 14 in the first quarter in this one. He finished with 27 first half points, which is the second-most anyone has scored this season, following Kevin Durant who had 29 points in his 54-point performance against the Warriors.
This is probably the Durant the Thunder need more of if they’re going to keep on winning without Russell Westbrook, which has been a period with short streaks, both bad and good. Durant can put up 40 points each game if he wishes, but that’s not necessarily the best thing for his team. Making Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson score easy points (Jackson refuses to put in consecutive efficient performances) is the way to winning, because the Thunder’s defense is good enough to handle most teams even without Westbrook playing.
One interesting thing is Brooks continuing to play Kendrick Perkins, despite the lineups that include him being the worst for the Thunder. There’s obviously a leadership factor here hidden somewhere, with the same said about Derek Fisher, but it’s beyond a lot of people why rookie Steven Adams isn’t getting more minutes at the center position.
It’s going to be a rough finish in January for the Thunder: Playing against the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers at home before playing six of the next seven games on the road, including against the Spurs and the Miami Heat. Russell Westbrook won’t be a part of that trip, and it’s going to take this Kevin Durant – the one who does a little bit of everything but doesn’t try to score all the points on his own, to come out from this road trip within touching distance of the top spot in the Western conference.