We’re running out of superlatives, but that doesn’t really matter to Kevin Durant, who keeps leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to wins through his amazing scoring ability, this time saving his best for last, including a game-winning shot with 2.1 seconds left in the game to beat the Atlanta Hawks 111-109.
Durant, who is on an absolute tear in January, had his 11th consecutive game with more than 30 points, scoring 41 on 15-of-25 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. The funny thing? DeMarre Carroll didn’t do such a bad job of guarding him, but there comes a point when it doesn’t really matter who is guarding him and with what means – Durant finds a way to make the shot.
The Hawks double teamed him on that final play, but badly and too late. Mike Scott came from the weak side to help Carroll on Durant, but Durant was off before Scott could try and force him to the left side (something which teams haven’t been doing enough of). Durant had the path to move to his right, and shoot before Carroll could do anything about it, sinking the game winner.
Durant scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Thunder from a 14-point deficit in the second half. He wasn’t alone in this, but it sure felt like it during the final moments, also pulling off a big block on Paul Millsap which forced a turnover with the game tied at 107. Durant scored on the next possession in an and-1 but missed the free throw; Millsap scored to tie the game before Durant pulled off his late game magic.
I know we play a lot of games and a lot of people say January doesn’t mean anything. But when you’re playing this game with your heart and passion like we do, sometimes you’ve got to sit back and just enjoy it. Coach just drew it out for me and I had to make a play. It was an emotional game. It was up and down the whole game. My emotions were everywhere, so I just had to try to keep it together at the end of the game and make a play for my team.
So how good has Durant been in January? He’s averaging 36.9 points on 38.6 minutes a night, while shooting 54% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc. He’s grabbing 6.2 rebounds and adding 6.1 assists per game, and is on his incredible 30 points each game streak (at 11), with the month ending on two road games in Miami and then Brooklyn.
Durant wasn’t alone in this, obviously. Serge Ibaka wasn’t as accurate as always and found it hard to stop the Hawks from grabbing offensive rebounds (15), but he did have 6 blocks, finding it especially easy to stop Shelvin Mack when he was making his way into the paint. Reggie Jackson was helpful with 18 points and Jeremy Lamb scored 14 in 18 minutes coming off the bench.
However, the star of the show right now beyond a doubt is Durant, almost singlehandedly making the Thunder look like the best team in the NBA, even if they’re playing without Russell Westbrook.