Kevin Durant’s like the movie ending that you know is coming—no matter the plot twists, no matter what artillery the villains start sending his way, Durant’s going to accomplish mission impossible.
On Sunday night, the Washington Wizards visited Oklahoma City. It seemed to be Bradley Beal night as he put up a career-high 34 points. It was not to be—OKC came roaring back in the fourth quarter. From here on out, as has been the case so many times over the course of his career, it was Durant and clutch time.
Of course, it wasn’t only late game heroics that defined Durant’s game against the Wizards. He stuffed the stat sheet all evening—33 points, 13 boards and six assists in 46 minutes.
Here, he steps out, quickly dribbles between the legs and buries the outside dagger that led to OT. Vintage Durant.
And, the twitterverse went supernova:
Durant has a habit of tying up games in the closing moments from long distance. ESPN Stats & Info succinctly tweets the story:
Check out highlights of Durant's ten top clutch shots over the course of his career:
Durant has faced plenty of adversity since entering the league. Passed over for Greg Oden in the 2007 draft, he put in time with a Seattle SuperSonics team that simply wasn’t very good, even after it moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. The culture began to change when the upstart team took the Lakers to six games in the 2010 playoffs and advanced to the NBA Finals in 2012. But then he watched management trade top teammate James Harden that offseason and had his title hopes dashed again when Russell Westbrook suffered a season-ending injury in the playoffs.
But through it all—perhaps because of all his experience with tough situations—Durant has remained steadfastly clutch.
In the previous three years, Durant led the NBA with 35 field goals in the final minute of regulation or overtime when the score is within three points. He also led the league in shots, 93, under those conditions.
His shooting percentage in those situations (37.6) isn't great, but it somewhat speaks to how much faith the Thunder have in him in the clutch. Despite playing with Harden for two of those years and Westbrook for all three, Durant kept getting get the ball in those big spots, even when it probably wasn't ideal. The Thunder just know a tough shot for Durant is nothing to him considering the other challenges he's faced.
Late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, Westbrook who had been mixing it up with Washington's Nene all night long, got tossed for his second technical. It was one more bit of adversity for Durant to overcome.
OKC coach Scott Brooks on the team’s effort Sunday night: "That never-quit mentality we've always had, that's what got the win for us tonight. We just played inspired basketball when we were down 10."
Late in overtime, Durant did it again, blocking a shot by John Wall and racing back the other way. He wound up sinking two clutch free throws, putting OKC ahead 106-105 with 40.7 seconds left. The Wizards didn't score again.
The "never-quit mentality we've always had" is because the Thunder have always had Durant. Brooks knows it, the team knows it and the fans know it. Once more, a soft-spoken action-hero lets his game do the talking.