The absence of Russell Westbrook, this time because of a knee injury suffered during the game, just makes Kevin Durant better, as he takes his game to another level in order to make sure the Oklahoma City Thunder keep moving in the same direction, this time dramatically beating the Toronto Raptors 119-118.
The Raptors had the game all sewn up with 49 seconds to go in the second overtime, leading 118-110. The Thunder, especially with Durant, seem like they’re born for these Mission Impossible moments. Kevin Durant nailed a huge 3-pointer, and then Derek Fisher did the same. It had nothing to do with basketball plays. It was just both of them taking shots from way beyond the arc, with a hand in their face, and simply making it.
The luck factor came in afterwards. John Salmons was sent to the line with the Raptors up by two. He missed both shots, the Thunder grabbed the rebound. Timeout, and everyone knew what’s coming. Durant dribbling up the court, pulling up for a 3-pointer, hand in his face. It’s still in, still counted, and the Thunder win after DeMar DeRozan missed his desperation shot on the final play.
Durant finished with 51 points to go with 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He scored 38 points in the second half and the two overtime periods, having no problem taking the game on his back the moment Westbrook left midway through the third quarter. News are that Westbrook’s injury isn’t serious – just a momentary panic. He had 15 points in the 19 minutes he was on the floor and Reggie Jackson, with 25 points and 12 rebounds did a very good job in his place. However, this team proves again and again just how much it’s going to be up to Durant in the playoffs, especially if the injuries keep coming back to haunt this team. He scores at will, and it has nothing to do with how well the opposition defends or plays offensively. At his best, which seems to be almost every game, he can almost win on his own.
Durant had his second 50-point game of the season, making him the first player since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to have multiple 50-point games in one season, dating back to 2008-2009. He is averaging 33.9 points per game when Westbrook isn’t playing, and has now scored 25 points or more in 34 consecutive games, closing in on the Michael Jordan record, which has to be sitting somewhere in the back of his mind.
The Raptors are a very good team, and even though they weren’t the most efficient of opponents, they made things very difficult for the Thunder on the defensive end with a great game for Amir Johnson and Greivis Vasquez, taking some pressure off Kyle Lowry and DeRozan. However, when it comes down to making plays and one player rising above the rest, there’s no one better in the league at this than Durant.
The Thunder are still trailing the Spurs for the lead in the West, but that isn’t the main concern right now. Getting Westbrook healthy, which means possibly more rest after his brief scare, should be the top priority. Perkins and Sefolosha should be back in a couple of weeks as well, maybe a bit more. For now, considering the Thunder might not be too panicky about not having home court advantage, leaving Kevin Durant leading the offense on his own isn’t the worst of ideas.