The end result with the box score painted a familiar picture; Kevin Durant with another impressive scoring performance while the San Antonio Spurs, losing 111-105 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, need to find explanations as to why they keep losing to their direct competition in the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant is in rare form, scoring 36 points on 12-of-22 from the field. He grabbed 7 rebounds, added 5 assists and was once again close to unstoppable in the fourth quarter. He’s averaging 38.1 points over the last 11 games, and sits comfortably on top of the NBA’s scoring list, gunning for his 4th NBA scoring title, currenlty averaging 31 points per game. LeBron James is next, but he averaged almost five points less than Durant. If Durant does win his 4th scoring title, he’d become just the 5th player in NBA history to win at least 4 scoring titles.
Back to the game? The Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard in the second half with a fractured finger, which means more trouble for a team that hasn’t seen any of its big three succumb to injury (or a serious one at least), but at this stage so much is on the role players (with Leonard being a borderline star) that each omission is taking away so much from them. Tony Parker had a great game with 37 points, but the Spurs turned the ball over 17 times and had no one to even slightly bother Durant (no Danny Green as well) when they needed stops more than anything else. Durant scored 24 points after Leonard left the game at the end of the first half.
Kevin did his thing down the stretch, it was pretty remarkable. Durant hit some tough shots, he hit some big 3s down the stretch and it just got away from us. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s tough, we’re dropping like flies right now. Losing Kawhi was huge, especially in a game like tonight.
The attitude issue continues to be something Durant feeds off, this time not getting any technical fouls. Durant seemed to be fouling Manu Ginobili with his elbow or shoulder while going up for a shot with 1:19 left in the first half. Gregg Popovich, not the calmest of individuals in recent games (ejected this week as well) screamed at the referee and got T’d up. Durant actually yelled at Popovich before going to the free throw line angrily and hitting the shot.
The Spurs are now 1-9 against the rest of the West’s top five teams, losing for a third time this season to the Thunder. They’re not the only teams with injuries getting in their path, but it has certainly been an issue: Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green. Tough guys to make up for.
Everything begins and ends for the Thunder with Durant. The ball goes through him on every possession, and the success Reggie Jackson (27 points) and Serge Ibaka (14 points) have is mostly due to him, either by drawing attention or showing off his improved passing skills. He owns the four highest scoring games this season in the NBA; The last time a player held the 4 highest scoring games of the season entering games on January 22nd was Michael Jordan in 1988-89 (posted single-game totals of 53, 52, 52, 52).