Less than a month after the Cleveland Cavaliers stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder at home, Kevin Durant wouldn’t let that slight get by him a second time and put on quite the offensive performance to lead his team to a 102-95 win.
The game wasn’t that close, especially in the second half, but with the Thunder getting a little bit too comfortable, the Cavs went on a 21-2 run to bring the lead down to 5 after trailing by 24 points with six minutes left in the game. The Cavs are without both Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng, which means it’s not that much of a surprise they weren’t a match for most of the game, but it also means that their small hopes of making the playoffs are being torn to pieces.
Durant scored 35 points despite a very slow start. He missed five of his first six shots but found his scoring touch later on, making it 33 consecutive games with 25 points or more, seven more to go for him before reaching the Michael Jordan record of 40 games. He hit 12-of-21 overall in the game to go with his 11 rebounds and six assists, once again doing more than just scoring while Russell Westbrook was getting a rest.
Durant also added yet another technical to his collection, getting T’d up after shouting into the face of Anderson Varejao seconds after dunking on him. Being competitive and fired up is great, but playoff games tend to be a bit tenser and easier to get emotional in. Durant picking up early technical fouls might put him and the Thunder in the wrong spot in crucial moments, although it’s getting quite stupid seeing referees focusing on what players say to each other in the game instead of making the right calls on more important things.
Serge Ibaka added a double double himself with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Reggie Jackson scored 13 points and the Jeremy Lamb-Derek Fisher combo off the bench scored 22 points. The Thunder played well defensively without the Perkins-Sefolosha combo which is pretty much a given to be missing these days, but once the playoffs begin, I’m not sure that all the offense Durant and Westbrook are able to generate will be enough to make up for their defensive problems.
The Cavs got a big night from Dion Waiters, scoring 30 points and showing for a second consecutive game that life without Kyrie Irving means big numbers for him but also losses for the Cavs, too costly of defeats at this stage of the season which was supposed to be about their return to the playoffs. Spencer Hawes added 20 points, another addition that possibly came too late to the team, bringing in numbers but not the wins the Cavs needed in order to make it into the playoffs.
The Thunder improve to 50-18, putting them 1.5 games behind the Spurs, who have played one game less than Oklahoma City. While home court advantage is important, the 2012 Thunder didn’t need it to beat the Spurs in the Western conference finals, and if they’re completely healthy, they’re the one team out of all the 16 we’ll see in the postseason that don’t need home court advantage through the playoffs in order to feel confident about winning it all.