Kevin Durant had one of those games on Friday against the Clippers that superstars put out to remind opponents just how much better they are than everyone else. As these players are wont to do in these kinds of games, Durant imposed his will on the Clippers in the first half, dropping 38 points on 12-of-17 shooting. It was not only his career-high for points in a half, but it was just one point shy of Sleepy Floyd’s record for most points in a postseason half.
Durant would finish with 50 points, six rebounds and five assists in the deciding Game 6 match up that sent Golden State to the second round.
What elevated the impressive nature of this performance was its timing. On paper, the Clippers—a team that by all accounts was a surprise postseason entrant—should not have hung on to win any games against the Warriors, let alone two. Yet, through god-like performances and some incredible defensive pestering, they were able to do it. Most notably was the fact that Los Angeles took Game 5 against Golden State when the team was down 3-1, a feat that hadn’t been done against the Warriors since the Cavaliers did it in the 2016 finals.
Being forced to a sixth game started to raise doubts about the team that had already been crowned champion before the season started. Durant stepped in and showed out in a way that didn’t just stop the team’s bleeding, but also reinforced the inevitability of a Warriors-led destruction of the league. There was at least an argument a few days ago that the Rockets could go toe-to-toe with the reigning champs; now it feels like a question of whether the series will go four games or five.
Durant’s performance can really only be compared to LeBron James’s Game 6 against the Celtics in 2012. It’s worth noting that LeBron’s performance came with his team down 3-2 in the series, but in terms of Durant’s focus level, supernatural scoring ability and overall control, it’s the only showing that immediately comes to mind. Though perhaps Steve Kerr might be a better voice to put things in perspective than my own given the teammates he’s had over the years. He called it “one of the great performances I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve seen some good ones.”
But even with the historical context and high praise from those who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to the greats of this sport, reporters still wondered if maybe the Clippers could have done something to try and prevent this performance from happening. Patrick Beverely was understandably incredulous towards the question, and all Lou Williams could say was “I promise we tried.”
There’s no better mark of an all-time performance than when even what the opposing team says about it adds to its myth.