Since Steph Curry ate the NBA whole and arose as the preeminent superstar in the NBA last year, the luster on Kevin Durant has faded a little bit. The Thunder have stagnated since they made the Finals in 2012, and Durant and Russell Westbrook have only made incremental progress in learning how to enmesh their tremendous talents to produce cohesive basketball. OKC was overshadowed by Golden State and San Antonio all season long, and most prognosticators didn’t give them much of a chance of upsetting the Spurs. But after six weird games, they are on to face the Warriors. The Thunder needed KD to bring it, and he did, scoring 37 in one of his best games of the playoffs.
San Antonio opened the game strong, but the Thunder ended the first half on a 42-12 run, and Durant was right at the heart of it, scoring 12 points and grabbing five boards during the romp. It didn’t much matter that he had Kawhi Leonard on him, Durant got to his spots and drew a ton of fouls. The most glaring difference in his game tonight was how aggressive he was and how much he drove into the thick of things. As his shot chart shows, he made a concerted effort to move around and get closer to the hoop.
He also cut off a valiant, doomed Spurs comeback with this big jam in the fourth quarter.
OKC lost all three games against the Warriors this year, but with Steven Adams on the upswing, Serge Ibaka showing some rare signs of life, and Andrew Bogut’s potential adductor injury, the Western Conference Finals feels like it’ll be closer than ESPN’s BPI says it will be.
Magic Johnson is right about this much, it will be an exhilarating series. Westbrook and Curry are the two most entertaining players in the NBA and their contrasting styles make for a weird matchup (even if they’ll rarely guard each other). If Bogut is healthy, he and Steven Adams are definitely going to punch the shit out of each other. Had the Spurs advanced, we would be in store for a more tactically intriguing matchup, but seeing how the Thunder’s two superstars can push the historically-dominant Warriors will be much more fun.