Kevin Durant scored 52 points, a new career-high in leading the Thunder to a 117-114 overtime win in Dallas against the Mavericks.
None of his shots were as ridiculous or as important as the one you see in the video clip above.
With under 27 seconds remaining in overtime and the game tied at 114, Russell Westbrook has possession at the top of the three-point arc. He passes to Durant just above the elbow, who turns and faces Shawn Marion about 20 feet from the basket.
With just three dribbles, Durant gets briefly past Marion into the lane, before Marion recovers in time to defend the shot attempt closely. Durant sinks the tough fadeaway floater (if there is such a thing) to give him the final two points of his 52 on the night, and the Thunder escaped with their league-leading 32nd win of the season.
The crazy thing about the career-high performance from Durant was that it wasn’t his best overall offensive game by a longshot. He finished just 13-31 from the field, and missed plenty of shots that are regular makes for the man who has won three consecutive scoring titles. 21 of his points came at the free throw line, where he didn’t miss once in 21 attempts.
Westbrook chipped in with 31 points on 12-26 shooting, giving the pair 83 of their team’s 117 points.
Much like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, when both players have it going like this at the same time, it’s virtually impossible to shut their team down.
Cavaliers keep re-watching their Game 7 victory over the Warriors
The Cavaliers’ win over the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals was an all-timer.
LeBron James bringing a championship to title-starved Cleveland, the Cavs topping the 73-win defending champions who’d built a 3-1 lead, Kyrie Irving‘s shot, Kevin Love‘s defensive stand – the game had it all.
The Cavaliers obviously enjoyed it. And enjoyed it, and enjoyed it and…
“I’ve seen it a few times,” James said. “It was on NBA TV throughout the summer. I watch it from a fan’s perspective. I see what we could’ve done better, but I also watch it for enjoyment, to see those three zeros on the clock.”
Irving, via Windhorst:
“I was rewatching the games and talking to my teammates about it, sending them snapchats of me watching,” Irving said. “I got chills. My stomach was dropping knowing the ball is going in but knowing exactly, emotionally how I felt at the time. It still gets me excited thinking about it. It’s such a huge moment for not only Cleveland but our team, our families, our friends.”
I rated Payton a borderline first-rounder coming out of Oregon State, but he went undrafted. Perhaps, the league just deemed him unworthy. Or maybe the teams that liked him most weren’t positioned to draft him. Or maybe teams opted for lesser players in the second round who were willing to spend a year overseas or in the D-League.
Houston guaranteeing his deal certainly points to a robust market for the point guard. It could also indicate the Rockets plan to keep him into the regular season.
Payton gives the Rockets 15 players with guaranteed salaries plus restricted free agentDonatas Motiejunas, who has an outstanding qualifying offer and seems likely to return. There’s no obvious candidate for Houston to waive to reach the regular-season roster limit of 15 – and it could be Payton. This could just be a (more expensive than usual) way of getting Payton onto the Rockets’ D-League affiliate. They won’t be the only team to eat a guaranteed salary this season.
With James Harden (yup), Patrick Beverley, Pablo Prigioni and Tyler Ennis at point guard, Houston doesn’t have a pressing need for Payton. But Ennis, who has accomplished little in two NBA seasons, should be on notice. That Houston values Payton so highly could mean Ennis is the odd man out. Both players, and everyone else, will have the preseason to prove themselves.
Payton, son of the former SuperSonics guard, has major defensive potential. Running an NBA offense will be a tall order, but he has enough raw skills to offer intrigue on that end. He’ll need his defense to buy him time.
Bosh is in the midst of the the biggest quandary of his career. He needs a trusted advisor at his side.
But that might not be enough.
Bosh still has $75,868,170 guaranteed over the final three years of his contract. If he doesn’t play by Feb. 9 and the Heat waive him, they can exclude his salary from cap and luxury-tax calculations (while still paying him) IF a doctor agreed upon by the league and players union says Bosh can no longer safely play.
Bosh would be a free agent in that scenario, but would anyone want him? How much would Bosh resent missing a partial season before that? How much would he sacrifice in a buyout to become a free agent sooner? What if the jointly selected doctor says Bosh can return? What do Miami and Bosh do then?
These are difficult questions, and Bosh needs someone to help him navigate the minefield that lies ahead.
Why did David West choose to come off bench for Warriors? Kevin Durant.
“(The Warriors) reached out once we lost to OKC, maybe that night,” West told reporters at Golden State’s media day. “My agent was like, ‘If you’re interested in continuing to play, Golden State wants you.’ He was obviously talking to a few guys and to the coach during the process. Then, when Kevin Durant reached out, he told me he wanted me to come join, so it was a no-brainer.”
I have zero problem with a veteran player like West taking a pay cut and chasing a ring — we as fans can’t say “today’s players care more about money/friends than winning” then turn around and hammer the guy who puts winning first. That sounds like a Trump debate tactic.
Plus, West is going to get some run-up front with Golden State. He’s still solid — he is a physical defender, sets a good screen, and if you don’t stick with him on the pop West will destroy you from the midrange. He’s not his vintage self, but he’s still a guy a championship-caliber team can lean on.