In the press conference following the Thunder’s huge Game 5 win over the Spurs in San Antonio, one that now has Oklahoma City just a single home victory away from advancing to the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant was asked a question that seemed silly on the surface. It referenced the fact that teams seemingly needed to politely wait for their time to come, before asking when the Thunder decided they were ready now to take that next step.
Durant handled it with the grace and skill that he displays on a nightly basis, while often making his heroics seem routine.
“We never just thought that we were supposed to wait our turn,” Durant said. “We always wanted to go and take everything.”
It was a fitting response after Durant and his Thunder took Game 5, winning for the third straight time over a now-reeling Spurs team that began this series with a 2-0 lead, and a 20-game win streak that had many wondering if it would ever come to an end this post-season.
The thing about that answer, though, is that Durant has often waited his turn in these playoffs — but not to his team’s detriment. In fact, the results have been outstanding.
Durant once again led the Thunder in scoring on Monday, hitting for 27 points on 10-19 shooting. But he did so after scoring just five first-half points, all of which came in the first quarter, on just 1-6 shooting.
It’s cliche to say that a player takes what the defense gives, and doesn’t force while allowing the game to come to him. But that’s exactly what we get from Durant. It’s rare to see a superstar adhere to both of those principles on a consistent basis, and to do so in such a way where the rest of the team thrives — while still leaving the door open to take the game over when the time is right — well, it’s a special quality that might belong to Durant alone if we’re talking about the game’s most elite players.
The Spurs held a lead of six points with 5:40 to play in the third quarter. Durant had yet to assert himself, but when he did, just like the majority of the games he’s played in this season, his opponent had no answer.
Durant started getting buckets, in the silky-smooth way that only he can. He hit from distance, mid-range, and at the rim, and even assisted Russell Westbrook on a highlight-reel alley-oop that was part of a 23-5 OKC run that turned the game around for good.
The Spurs didn’t go away, of course, and closed the gap with a late run of their own. And, once Durant got things rolling by doing his thing, James Harden stepped up with 12 huge fourth-quarter points on just four shots, which included four three-pointers and the dagger with the shot clock winding down that effectively sealed it.
As a team, the Thunder may not have had any intention of waiting their turn behind the Mavericks, Lakers, and now Spurs — all of whom have been the only ones to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals over the past 13 years, and all of whom the Thunder have faced in these playoffs.
Incredibly, all it will take is one more patient performance from Durant at home in Game 6, and the wait for his Thunder will be over.