Kevin Durant started off the night missing five of his first six shots. But as the old adage still proves, it was the way he ended the game that really mattered. Durant had 35 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder doused a late rally from the Cleveland Cavaliers, giving them their 50th win of the season and giving Durant his 33 straight game with 25 points or more, making him, by the number the hottest consecutive scorer since Michael Jordan did it in 40 straight during the 1986-87 season.
Durant’s points were not all for show either. He hit five straight clutch free throws to end the game and stop the Cavaliers advances. Although the Cavs were without their best player, guar Kyrie Irving who suffered a bicep injury earlier in the week, they gave the Thunder everything they could handle, falling 102-95.
With their most recent win the Thunder are only a game and a half behind the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference. The Thunder were without guard Russell Westbrook last night, who was watching an injured knee he had repaired.
Spencer Hawes and Dion Waiters came up big for the Cavs who were able to cut a 24-point lead down to five in the game’s final minutes. While the lead was 24, Durant was taken out of the game, already above his 25 point quota, and figured that he was done for the night. After a furious comeback Durant was reinstated to help the Thunder hold on.
“But that can happen in this league.” The NBA’s scoring leader said. “Guys have pride and Cleveland plays extremely hard,” he added that their group made it close at the end and it was up to his team to close that out. Durant said after the game. When after asked after the game if he thought he was done for the night when he was first taken out and if it was hard to get back in the game to close it out Durant said that his mind is always thinking about the game and analyzing it so that he never “space[d] out.” He also said he was “instantly ready” to get back into the game and help his team.
Durant’s current streaking is nothing short of impressive. Over the last 33 games he has been able to be dominate even when he is not on his normal game. Last night was a prime example of Durant’s shooters mentality. “I just don’t care if I miss,” he said after the game. He also added that it might be in his mind that he is 1 for 6 but, “that’s how quickly it can change man… I always stay aggressive.”
Guarding Durant last night was Matthew Dellavedova, who clearly under matched tried to be pesky enough to stop the league’s leading scorer. Durant was gracious after the game however, saying that he did not do anything unsportsmanlike, he simply competed and you have to respect a guy for that.
The Thunder will continue to chase the Spurs for the top spot in the West, as Durant keeps inching closer to Michael Jordan’s streak of 40 consecutive 25 point games.
By Nick Manai