BOSTON – Kevin Durant rose from his seat on the bench, tugging up the slack on his warm-up pants as he inched forward at nearly action that could lead to an Oklahoma City Thunder basket.
As the Thunder connected on shot after shot, Durant – out with a sore right shoulder that will be re-evaluated Saturday – repeatedly uncoiled to celebrate. While he clapped and hollered, a gaggle of supportive benchmates filed in behind him.
At times, it was if he were trying to recreate this for his active teammates:
In the second half, as the Thunder shot on the opposite end of the court from their bench, Durant relaxed a bit in his seat – he’s still no Kent Bazemore – but Oklahoma City kept coming anyway in a 101-83 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday.
Serge Ibaka had 21 points and seven rebounds, but Jeremy Lamb was the real bright spot in Oklahoma City’s first-ever game without Durant and Russell Westbrook. Second to his career-high 22, Lamb scored 19 points, 15 of them on 7-of-11 shooting in the first half – when Durant was closest.
“He’s one of the best players in the game, best scorer in the game – for him to cheer for us, it’s huge,” Lamb said. “You always, when you’re on the road, you’ve got to lean on your bench sometimes to get energy. And he definitely was on the bench giving energy.”
As much as Durant’s energy, the Thunder needed stiffer defense, and they had it in the third quarter. Oklahoma City’s defensive rating was 52.8 in that period as it outscored the Celtics 27-13.
“We gave a good effort and played for one another,” said Thabo Sefolosha, who shot 6-for-6. “But that’s a staple of our team. It’s no different if KD and Russ are there or not.”
For many teams riding a five-game win streak that most recently including thrilling wins over the powerful Spurs and Trail Blazers, a potential letdown would seem concerning.
“I’ve never had that problem with our guys,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Even sidelined, Durant proved that.