Don't make Kevin Durant angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.
On the same day as The Oklahoman dropped a headline calling him "Mr. Unreliable," the Oklahoma City Thunder star dropped 36 points on the Memphis Grizzlies, leading OKC to a 104-84 Game 6 win:
Kevin Durant comes through! KD goes off for 36 Pts, 10 Reb as Thunder force Game 7. Westbrook: 25 Pts, 9 Reb, 5 Ast. pic.twitter.com/7DyMiMlnw2— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 2, 2014
Durant added 10 rebounds for what was a strong all-around performance. He wasn't otherworldly, but you couldn't have asked for much more. It's a testament to his talent level and expectations that 36 points on 11-of-23 shooting is viewed as run-of-the-mill.
Durant did struggle from behind the arc, though. CBS Sports' Eye on Basketball posted his shot chart from the game:
Still, the good far outweighed the bad, and he looked much more like the player who's poised to win the Most Valuable Player Award.
What will probably get lost in all of the Durant hoopla is the performance of Russell Westbrook. Royce Yong of the Daily Thunder thought Game 6 was Westbrook's best so far this postseason:
Durant's game is the storyline, but Westbrook played his best of the series. Calm, under control, but still ultra aggressive.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) May 2, 2014
He finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. What stood out the most was that Westbrook didn't take the kind of shots that make you throw your arms up in frustration.
Oklahoma City also got some nice production from its bench players. Reggie Jackson contributed 16 points and Steven Adams added three rebounds and five blocks.
This was what you'd consider a typical Thunder performance. Durant and Westbrook led the way, while guys like Jackson, Adams, Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher all pulled their own weight.
Before the game, Durant addressed the media firestorm that was created by the headline, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
"I'm unreliable? Me, Mr. Unreliable?" Durant said Thursday morning. "As a competitor there's going to be good and bad days. They're going to build you up, they're going to break you down. You just have to stay even keeled, and that's what I am. It's all about what have you done for me lately, and I understand that."
Westbrook came to his teammate's defense before the game, too.
"A week ago you're calling him MVP and now you're calling him Mr. Unreliable," he said. "That doesn't make no sense to me."
It sure looked like the Thunder were carrying a chip on their shoulder. This series has been extremely competitive for the first five games, but Oklahoma City coasted to victory Thursday. The ease with which it beat the Grizzlies on the road was startling and puts the rest of the league on notice.
Although the Thunder still need to close out the series at home, when they're playing as well as they did on Thursday, few, if any teams can stop them.
Oklahoma City did a great job of jumping on the Grizzlies early and taking the crowd out of the game. Durant and Westbrook combined to score 30 points en route to giving the Thunder a 56-41 halftime lead.
Head coach Scott Brooks inserted Caron Butler into the starting lineup for Game 6, and that seemed to give his team an extra defensive impetus.
Young believed that OKC finally looked like its regular-season self once again in the first half:
That first half looked like regular season Thunder. Fast, loose and confident. Now, can they stay in that rhythm after halftime?— Royce Young (@royceyoung) May 2, 2014
The third quarter was more of the same. Although Durant started out the second half missing his first five shots, Westbrook shouldered the scoring load, dropping 12 points in the third.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Memphis was down 82-61. The Grizzlies aren't built to make up 21-point gaps in 12 minutes, so this game was all but over entering the final frame.
As a team, the Grizzlies only shot 37.3 percent from the field and 21.4 from three-point range.
Although Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph scored 17 and 16, respectively, they received little offensive support from their teammates. The rest of Memphis' starting lineup contributed a combined nine points.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley finished with five points on 2-of-10 shooting, which is his worst-ever postseason scoring output, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Mike Conley scored 5 points tonight, his fewest in 41 career playoff games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2014
A lot will have to change between now and Game 7 on Saturday for the Grizzlies to advance to the second round. They were anemic on the offensive end, and defensively, Tony Allen wasn't having the same success keeping track of Durant. And if Westbrook remains his somewhat more efficient self, the game could turn into another rout.
Game 6 may have been a seminal moment for the Thunder in this postseason. They were smacked in the mouth in Game 5, and some of the fans and media members began turning on the team.
Now, they're motivated and back to playing their best basketball.
Game 7 should be a lot of fun to watch.