The Oklahoma City Thunder trailed throughout most of the first three quarters at the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. They looked sluggish and looked like they were just looking forward to the All-Star break. The Lakers were undermanned but were playing like a team that had nothing to lose and wanted to pull a major upset. There was only one problem; Kevin Durant would have none of that.
With all due respect to LeBron James, who is having his usual incredible season, Durant is the clear front-runner for the MVP award this season. After Thursday night’s victory, Durant has led the Thunder to a 43-12 record going into the All-Star break, which is the best record in the NBA. He has done this without having his All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook, who has now missed 30 games this season.
The incredible Durant came into Thursday night’s game averaging 31.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. After this game against the Lakers all those numbers will receive at least a little bump.
Durant scored 43 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists as the Thunder came back from a 10 point deficit to start the fourth quarter to rally and win, 107-103. After scoring 12 points in the first half, the Slim Reaper, as he’s recently been called, stepped up his game. He scored 12 points in the third quarter before taking over the game in the fourth with 19 points in the final quarter.
His teammates also stepped up late to help him out. Derek Fisher scored 12 points off the bench and hit a couple of key three-pointers in the second half. Fisher also sank two free-throws late in the game. Jeremy Lamb also contributed with 11 points off the bench. Reggie Jackson continued to play well in the absence of Westbrook, finishing with 16 points. Serge Ibaka had 10 points to go with seven boards and five blocks.
Oklahoma City also stepped up their defense as a whole in the fourth quarter holding the Lakers to just 21 points and forcing numerous turnovers.
The Lakers fought hard despite being without Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks. Mike D’Antoni‘s crew has to be given credit for their recent effort despite being without so many key players. For the most part, each player who suited up did about as well as one could have expected them to do.
It was a well rounded team effort. Six different players scored in double figures. Kendall Marshall and Chris Kaman were outstanding as Marshall scored 14 points, dished out 17 assists and had seven rebounds while Kaman was big-time as he scored 19 points, had 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wesley Johnson also scored 19 points, and Shawne Williams had 15 points and nine boards. Steve Blake had 13 points and six boards.
Kaman actually had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds after he converted a layup and was fouled on the play. But Kaman’s subsequent free-throw just missed and the Thunder went on to win the game.
This is simply what happens to most of the Thunder’s opponents. No matter how well a team may play it just usually isn’t good enough. With the way Durant is playing, he is pretty much an unstoppable force that will beat anyone in his way.