Kevin Durant put the Oklahoma City Thunder on his back last night leading the Thunder to a 104-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Durant had 41 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in 47 minutes of action in what was the first game in franchise history without Russell Westbrook.
It was clear that the team and Durant had one thing on their minds coming into the game and that was to win it for Westbrook.
Durant basically played point guard for much of the game. Twice, he went coast-to-coast bringing the ball up the floor and finishing with dunks over Houston big men. KD provided the finishing touches in the win too when he sunk a three-pointer with 41 seconds left after watching the ball bounce around the rim three times.
The three was meant to go in and the Thunder were meant to win this game. They willed their way to victory without their vocal leader. Durant stepped up.
Where does Durant’s performance rank among the all-time great playoff performances?
There have only been 10 times when a player had at least 41 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a game since the 1985-86 season. LeBron James did it once, Charles Barkley twice and Shaq three times.
There was more riding on Durant’s game last night than any of the other’s except for LeBron. This was a statement by Durant that this Thunder team is not rolling over and dying.
It brought with it shades of Magic Johnson in his rookie season when he led the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA title. After a devastating injury to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals, Magic stood up in front of his teammates and proclaimed, “Have no fear, Magic is here.” Magic then went on to have 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in Game 6 as the Lakers beat the 76ers for the championship.
Durant and the Thunder are only in the first round but it was a similar moment for OKC. Everyone was ready to completely write them off after hearing news that Westbrook was done for the playoffs. Durant reminded everyone that he’s still healthy.
Last night was definitely the greatest playoff game in Durant’s career and he’s had some good ones. If the Thunder can make a run to the Western Conference Finals without Westbrook then everyone will remember last night’s game as one of the best ever.
For the Thunder, Durant will need to continue having these all-time great performances for them to keep winning in the playoffs. Until OKC learns how to get more production from Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, they will rely on Durant to put up gaudy numbers like last night just to stay in games.
If there’s one thing we learned last night, it’s that Durant is up for the challenge. We’ll be in for a show the rest of these playoffs. The Kevin Durant Show.