The Oklahoma City Thunder are going through the motions without Russell Westbrook, and it’s taking the best of Kevin Durant to keep them on pace with the rest of the best in the Western conference. It can’t get much better than 54 points in a 127-121 win over the Golden State Warriors.
Or maybe it can? Durant is only 25, and on a team that’s main strength is the age and talent of its two superstars; with the hopes to the future not based on great coaching (because there isn’t) or some mastermind building this team but on Durant and Westbrook growing up and improving, these are the kind of performances that make everyone involved with the team smile from ear to ear.
When you’ve got it going, I look at the bench and see how my teammates are reacting, and that just gives me an extra push. Then, I hear the fans. As a leader, my main objective is to serve my teammates, help them out. Some nights, I’ve got to put it up, I’ve got to score. Some nights, I’ve got to do other things. Tonight, they found me and I was able to hit a few shots. I just tried to do as best as I can to lead the team and lead us to victory. Of course, as a player, you’d love to win an MVP award, but I can’t take my focus off the team. Every day, I’ve just got to keep chipping away, keep enjoying the process, and we’ll see what happens.
The Warriors had Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in prime form, unlike their previous loss to the Nuggets: Curry finished with 37 points on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, adding 11 assists. Klay Thompson scored 26 points with 6 3-pointers as well. In general both teams rarely missed, finishing with a combined 55.3% from the field. However, while the Warriors missed Andre Iguodala’s scoring (only 2 points, 1-of-8 from the field), Durant got just enough help from each and every one of his teammates to not let his rare night go to waste.
Serge Ibaka scored 21 points, Reggie Jackson had 14 and Jeremy Lamb finished with 13 coming off the bench. Not supertarish contributions, but more than enough to carry Durant’s performance home.
With his 3rd career 50-point game, Durant is now averaging 36.3 points per game since December 27, the Thunder’s 1st game without Westbrook since he’s been shut down for the meantime. That is nine more points per game than anyone else in the league in that duration, with LeBron James following averaging 27.6 points per game. He’s now averaging 36.8 points per game in January, the highest scoring month of his career, and it seems like it’s going to take this kind of performance from him to keep the Thunder on pace with the Blazers and Spurs in order to not be forced to make up for too much lost ground when Westbrook does come back.
Do the Thunder win an NBA championship like this? No. Durant can do everything for some games, but not all the time. However, having him carrying this team on his own is a perfect opportunity for everyone to see just how much talent this player has, and think about how much more there is for him to grow.