He didn't play in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's 120-95 victory and was forced to "settle" for 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Though Friday's game still featured plenty of gorgeous, un-blockable jumpers, Durant spent much of the game playing the role of facilitator, tying a time high with seven assists.
Many of those helpers went to power forward Serge Ibaka, who set a franchise record by hitting all 12 of his field-goal attempts. Ibaka, Durant and reserve shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (5-of-6, 12 points) shot a combined 27-of-30 from the field against Brooklyn. Their shooting chart is a thing of beauty (or horror, if you're a Nets fan).
Per CBS Sports:
The Thunder shot 63.6 percent from the field as a team on Friday, the highest single-game mark in the league this season, per ESPN. So dominant were the Oklahoma City shooters as a whole that Brooklyn simply didn't have many chances to rebound the ball.
The Nets came into Friday ranked dead last in total defensive rebounds, and they sunk to a new low Friday, grabbing just 17. It was the lowest total for a team since rebounds became an official stat in the 1950-51 season. Ibaka has two games of at least 17 rebounds this season by himself.
Durant has been getting most of the press during the Thunder's 10-game win streak, but Oklahoma City is also playing its best team basketball of the season. He is scoring at a historic rate and drawing more defenders, and he's unselfish enough to find his open teammates when needed. And when his teammates are called upon to score, they are getting the job done.
Add all of that up, and you get a 38-10 club.
A Month for the Ages: Scoring and Passing
The first month of the year might as well be changed to Duran-uary. Durant dominated the month like few NBA players in NBA history, leading his shorthanded team to a 14-3 record.
The narrative is that Durant stepped up his scoring in January to make up for the loss of star point guard Russell Westbrook, who went down with a knee injury following a Dec. 25 win against the New York Knicks.
It would seem the only person who can keep Durant from dropping 30 is his own coach, Scott Brooks, who prefers to sit his star during blowouts. Per Daily Thunder's Royce Young:
But KD's scoring tells only part of the story. The truth is that he has stepped up both his scoring and distributing in January.
|Durant's Month-by-Month Point and Assist Averages|
He spoke of his playmaking responsibilities before Friday's win, per Yahoo! Sports and Justin Einhorn of STATS:
I'm just trying to do whatever my team needs, night in and night out, to figure out what we need to do to win a basketball game. ... I trust in my teammates a lot more. No matter what happens, keep having faith in those guys.
But he's still Kevin Durant, and since Kevin Durant rules the basketball world at the moment, he didn't leave Brooklyn's Barclays Center without setting a personal record, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Durant's Wing Men
Durant understands that no player can win an NBA game alone. This winning streak is as much about his teammates as it is about him.
Serge Ibaka (18.8 PPG) and Reggie Jackson (15.5 PPG) have also contributed to the scoring during the past 10 games.
Ibaka in particular was tremendous Friday night, showing off his improved jumper and splashing mid-range J's over the helpless Nets defenders.
During the broadcast, ESPN announcers Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen suggested Ibaka was upset at not receiving more consideration for the All-Star Game. It's easy to see why he wasn't picked—the Western Conference is ridiculously deep—but he certainly merited consideration.
Who knows how many games the Thunder would have dropped this season without Ibaka's steady presence in the frontcourt.
Oklahoma City has shown admirable depth in withstanding Westbrook's injury, and Durant continues to grow as a player. As such, he is gaining steam to unseat LeBron James as MVP.
If Westbrook can return to full health and reintegrate himself into the lineup, Durant may win more than just an MVP award at the end of the season.
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