There was a time when Kevin Durant was limited. When he was not much more than a high-volume, high-efficiency scorer on offense and a skinny, long-limbed, subpar defender on the other. When the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar makes a pair of game-clinching, crunch-time plays like he did on Tuesday night, though, it’s easy to forget he was ever anything less than an all-time great.
Before he caught the ball off an in-bounds pass and took Luc Mbah a Moute off the dribble from the top of the key with under 10 seconds remaining, Durant’s performance against the Los Angeles Clippers had been underwhelming. He’d struggled with his shot en route to 22 points on 23 field-goal attempts, playing a clear Robin to Russell Westbrook’s Batman.
But even though the hierarchy between Oklahoma City’s superstars is virtually nonexistent, winning time is still Durant’s – and he showed the basketball world why on the game’s final two possessions.
First, he hit a difficult pull-up jumper over the outstretched arms of Mbah a Moute to put his team up 99-98 with 5.8 seconds remaining.
And after Chris Paul created space from Serge Ibaka as the game clock ticked to zero, Durant left his defender in the strong corner to block what would have been a game-winning jumper.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 22, 2015
Ball game: Thunder 100, Clippers 99.
Steph Curry is the clear MVP favorite. LeBron James is gaining steam, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are right behind him.
By the time spring finally comes, though, don’t be surprised if Durant stakes his claim for a second MVP award in three years. Not only is he playing perhaps the best basketball of his career, but Oklahoma City seems well on its way to emerging as a legitimate title contender, too.