Don't let Kevin Durant get to three wins in a playoff series. Just don't.
The Los Angeles Clippers found that out the hard way, as the NBA's Most Valuable Player exploded during the second half of a 104-98 Game 6 victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder, pushing his team into the Western Conference Finals for a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs.
Durant finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, completely dominating the second half and putting the game out of reach, much to the chagrin of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of the LAC bunch that will watch the rest of the postseason from their homes.
Or they could go fishing. Either one works.
During the first half, Durant was actually contained. I know that seems impossible these days, even coming off a 6-of-22 brickfest in Game 5, but it happened. The combined efforts of the Clippers held the small forward to "only" 14 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Durant needed 12 shots from the field to rack up that output.
Then came the third and fourth quarters.
Durant, playing like an All-Star in the first half, decided to play like an MVP after halftime. And, as we all know after his emotional acceptance speech, that's something he can actually claim to be at this point of his shockingly young career.
His final line during that second half was just incredible—25 points, 12 rebounds and one assist on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. That's just sickening, although I'm sure none of us feel quite as nauseated as the Clippers defenders do. After all, they were the ones who had to witness this type of greatness. Again.
To make things even more impressive, Durant was hitting shots from all over the floor. He knocked down two of his three attempts from downtown and littered the rest of the court with successful shots.
Oh, and the rebounding.
To put things in perspective, Durant recorded a dozen or more rebounds only 11 times throughout the regular season. He had 12 in the second half alone, and his total of 16 is now his top performance in any outing of the 2013-14 campaign, regular season or playoffs.
Thing is, this is nothing new.
Let's expand that list a bit more, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Heading into the Game 6 festivities, Durant sat at No. 4 on the all-time list of scorers in clinching postseason games. Michael Jordan (34.2), Allen Iverson (33.3) and Elgin Baylor (31.1) were the only players in NBA history with a higher output than his 30.8 points per game. Obviously that's not bad company.
After Game 6, though, that list is no longer accurate.
Durant's 39 points pushed him up to 31.5 points per game, which allows him to move past one of the legends previously ahead of him. And there's no telling what he'll do throughout the rest of his sure-to-be-incredible career, but I wouldn't rule out passing The Answer. MJ might be untouchable, but if we've learned anything over the last few years, it's that we shouldn't doubt Durant's scoring prowess.
There's no such thing as marveling over KD too much, so let's take a gander at his complete history in close-out games:
|5/21/12||Los Angeles Lakers||Win||25||10||4||42.9|
|6/6/12||San Antonio Spurs||Win||34||14||5||52.9|
|5/15/14||Los Angeles Clippers||Win||39||16||5||52.2|
Just stop and stare at that chart.
Hell, take a full hour to look at it and fully absorb the greatness if that's what it takes. Stay up all night if the need arises.
Not only is Durant averaging 31.5 points per game—once more, the third-best mark of all time—but he's also pulling down nine rebounds and dishing out four dimes per contest. Those are insane numbers.
Seriously, just insane. Especially because he's only getting better, as evidenced by this Game 6. After all, it may very well be the most stellar clinching game of his career, given the circumstances, his ability to bounce back from a poor start and his across-the-board contributions.
To put his numbers in perspective, here's the complete list of players who have ever averaged at least 31.5, nine and four during an entire postseason run, regardless of how long or short it may have been, per Basketball-Reference.com:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three times)
- Elgin Baylor (twice)
- LeBron James
- Hakeem Olajuwon
- Oscar Robertson
Once more, pretty storied company. And while Durant hasn't joined that list over the course of an entire postseason, he's doing it during the games that matter most. You could make a serious argument that what he's done is harder.
And if you take out the 11-point aberration against Memphis from 2011, the Durantula would be averaging 33.4 points per contest in close-out games, which would move him up to No. 2 on the scoring list.
There's just something about these games.
Durant is uniquely able to take control of them, even when everyone knows that he's going to attempt a takeover. The defender doesn't matter, nor does the situation.
Thursday night just gave us the latest example. And it was one heck of a showing.
The Spurs better hope they close out the Western Conference Finals before the Thunder can win three games. Otherwise it might be over before the close-out contest begins.