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.
LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.