Kevin Durant looks fully ready to put the Oklahoma City Thunder on his back and return to the NBA Finals. On Thursday night, Durant led the Thunder to another victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, giving OKC their 50th win of the 2013-14 season.
On Thursday night, Russell Westbrook did not play because he was resting his knee. With Westbrook sidelined, Durant has been able to prove that he is the heart and soul of the Thunder. Without Westbrook on the court, Durant is still able to produce at an extremely high level. He earned his 27th double-double of the season, dropping 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Along with that, he also contributed six assists. These are the types of performances that prove Durant will be able to put Oklahoma City on his back during the 2014 playoffs. He has had his best season yet and continues to grow as team leader.
Last season, Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus during Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets. He ended up having surgery, missing the rest of the postseason and the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Losing him ultimately cost the Thunder a repeat trip to the Finals. With Westbrook sidelined, Durant has been able to take the next step in improving his maturity and his overall game. The evolution of his game without his sidekick has been truly remarkable.
Westbrook being sidelined is the main component to the significant evolution in Durant’s game. I believe it has really helped him become more independent on the basketball court. Against Cleveland, he had his 33rd straight game with 25 points or more. This is the second most consecutive games with 25 points or more by any player since Michael Jordan‘s streak of 40 games during the 1986-87 season. At this rate, he will most likely break Jordan’s record.
Ultimately, Westbrook’s injury has been a blessing in disguise because it has allowed Durant to completely find himself while also helping other players on the team discover their roles as well. For some time, many have questioned the Thunder, debating who is OKC’s key player. As the season is winding down, it is a safe to say that Durant’s production is the main component to the Thunder getting back to the Finals. Durant is eager to get back to the championship. The evolution of his game this season has proved that he now has the ability to carry the team completely if Westbrook were to suffer another significant injury.