The Minnesota Timberwolves had Kevin Love at the free throw line for three free throws as they trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder by just two points in the final seconds of their matchup on Saturday night. Love missed all three free throws, though, and the Thunder escaped with a 115-111 victory to move to 26-7 on the 2013-14 NBA season.
However, the Thunder wouldn’t have even been close to a position where they could come out on top if they weren’t led by another unreal performance by Kevin Durant.
While the Thunder’s other four starters outside of Durant combined for just 27 points and the second leading scorer for the night was Derek Fisher with just 13 points, Durant was a monster. He finished the night with 48 points on 16-32 shooting from the field, 4-9 shooting from long-range, and 12-13 shooting from the foul line. Because he might not be human, Durant also added seven boards, seven assists, two steals and one block on the evening.
Though LeBron James is still performing at a super-human level himself, it’s games like this—which Durant has actually had a handful of already this year—that make you think that this might be the year that Durant eclipses LeBron as the MVP of the league.
One of the only knocks on Durant in recent seasons has been that he doesn’t affect the game in as many ways as a player like LeBron does. Partially because of growth and partially because of necessity due to Russell Westbrook’s injuries, Durant has evolved as an all-round player. As of right now, he’s currently on-pace to set career highs in rebounds and assists while tying his career-high in steals and averaging almost a block per game. He’s also doing this in 0.8 minutes per game fewer than he played last season.
What works even more in Durant’s favor is how he has carried this Thunder team through the ups and downs and times without Westbrook. Durant hasn’t just plateaued when Westbrook has been out, but has instead taken the onus upon himself to be both the primary scorer and the playmaker for this offense. He’s not without help from Oklahoma City’s role players, but he’s been doing it all.
With no disrespect to James, who is playing remarkably still and is probably still the league’s best player, this might be Durant’s year for the MVP. He’s putting up the numbers, but he’s also in the right situation for it to happen. Finally, KD might finally not be second, a label he has publicly said he wants to shed.