Durant explodes for 51 as Thunder crack the Nuggets
Kevin Durant sunk a whopping 51 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s thrilling 124-118 overtime win against the Denver Nuggets. It was the Thunder’s 24th win of the shortened season.
Thunder point guard Russel Westbrook chipped in with 40 points of his own, and power forward Serge Ibaka put up a triple-double including 10 monster blocks, but it was Durant who stole the show with the clutch drive and dunk to send the game into overtime, and then was ice cold from the free-throw line to seal it.
With Durant as their franchise player, the Thunder have gone from laughing stock to clear Western Conference favourites in just three years. Last season they were just edged out of the conference finals by Dirk Nowitzki and a Mavericks team that seemingly couldn’t miss.
At just 23 years old, the lanky small forward has already matured into one of the most explosive, dangerous, reliable and mature players in the NBA.
The two-time defending NBA scoring champion is almost an unsung superstar in such a small market team, signing a huge $86 million contract extension in July 2010. The modest announcement came via Twitter with barely even a press conference to follow – this just days after the 30 minute prime time ESPN special that finally ended the LeBron James free agency circus.
With a career average of nearly three assists per game, he’s also unselfish off the court. Durant once even refused a magazine cover-shoot unless some of his lesser-known team mates could appear with him. He felt that backup centre Nenad Krstic and defensive swingman Thabo Sefolosha were a crucial part of the Thunder and deserved more credit.
The Thunder are fast becoming playoff mainstays- they’re fast, big, entertaining, balanced, young yet experienced and have the premier point scorer in the league in Durant. They are a one-team-town and have the loudest home fans behind them.
Coach Scott Brookes, with Kevin Durant, could be on the brink of dynasty-basketball. They have all the pieces of the puzzle and will learn from last year’s tough conference finals loss – this will be the year for the Thunder.