Kevin Durant continued his summer of domination with another headline-grabbing performance in Saturday night’s epic showdown between the Goodman and Drew leagues at Trinity College in Washington D.C.
Dubbed Capital Punishment, this may be one of the last few organized, stateside basketball games featuring a bevy of NBA talent sharing the same floor—and the game certainly lived up to the hype.
It was clear that basketball-starved fans were anxiously looking to satisfy their hoops fix. A line formed around the building and hundreds of people were turned away at the door—many of which lingered around the building hoping to catch a glimpse of the action.
Those lucky enough to get inside the doors were treated to an unforgettable game.
From wire to wire, the level of intensity from both teams was palpable—everything from the hard fouls to the constant trash-talking created a special atmosphere that resonated with the raucous crowd.
Jam-packed into a 1,500 seat venue, the small arena was filled beyond capacity and the boisterous crowd helped to ratchet up the already high level of intensity.
The featured matchup of the night was between Durant and teammate James Harden. From the very start, it was apparent that they left their friendship and all pleasantries at the door.
The two were constantly jostling for position and going at each other all game long. While there was a certain playful exuberance between the two, both were unmistakably focused on nothing else but getting the "W."
Durant was in top form, taking home MVP honors after finishing the game with 44 points. He may have gotten the better of Harden when all was said and done, but Harden didn’t go quietly into the night—he finished the night with 29 points, including a timely bucket near the end of regulation.
While Durant versus Harden was the featured matchup of the night, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Brandon Jennings led the way for the Drew league with 34 points and had a memorable back-and-forth battle with Wall—who trailed Durant with 28 points and scored six of the team's last 10 points—throughout the second half. It seemed as if the two were at a track meet practically daring one to try and outpace the other.
Even DeMarcus Cousins—on the Goodman side—and JaVale McGee—from Drew—got overly physical with one another on numerous occasions. McGee had a number of highlight jams, but it was Cousins that had the more impressive showing, consistently outplaying McGee.
These intense and competitive individual matchups embodied the overall nature of both squads—each side was unrelenting and willing to put their bodies on the line as they hustled on every play.
The first half was a high-scoring affair. Goodman held an 11-point lead entering the second half up 76-65, and even stretched that out to 16 points at one point in the third, but they managed to squander their lead behind a furious rally led by Jennings.
The two sides eventually traded leads all the way down to the wire.
With less than two minutes remaining in the fourth, Goodman led Drew 131–130. Taking the inbounds pass, John Wall, otherwise known as the “Game-Changer,” dribbled to the top of the key and hit a jumper to give Goodman a three-point lead.
Harden calmly responded on the other end of the court with a deep three at the 1:07 mark to tie the game at 133 apiece.
After the Goodman squad failed to take a lead on the ensuing possession, Harden got the ball back and managed to draw a foul, but failed to capitalize at the line by hitting only one of his two shots.
Harden's teammate and nemesis throughout the game, Durant, followed suit and managed to get to the line following Harden’s trip to the charity stripe. However, it was a close charge call and those from the Drew league—unsurprisingly—found it to be controversial and immediately protested—unsuccessfully, I might add—to the referee.
Durant, unlike Harden, sank both his freebies to give the Goodman league a one-point lead.
With 21.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Jennings, who was determined to lead his team to victory, ran the clock down and pulled up for a quick step-back jumper from the arc that missed off the front rim. Harden streaked across the court and managed to snag the offensive board, but was way short on the final attempt after failing to get Durant to bite on a pump fake.
The close loss is sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the Drew league representatives and Harden in particular, but he wasn’t the only one.
Jennings tweeted this after the game:
All I wanna know is the Goodman league coming to #LA....... We Need that rematch!!! Bad call at the end...
Durant’s responded with this:
@BL00dline3 we will be there, alotta bad calls both ways...good game boy
A rematch is tentatively set for September 10 at the Drew league’s stomping grounds, and there is widespread speculation over an appearance from none other than the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant.
With the NBA embroiled in an ugly labor dispute, the influx of NBA talent flocking to participate in these events has reached a fever pitch.
Hopefully, the two organizations coordinating the rematch can secure a larger venue with better funding and support. It would be a shame for despairing fans to be deprived of what is sure to be an instant classic.
Even better would be to see the NBA and NBAPA get in a room and finally hash out their differences and come to an agreement, but that’s nothing more than wishful thinking at this juncture. With the start of the season in doubt, the rematch between these two squads set for early September may be our last glimpse at seeing two NBA-caliber squads go at it for some time.
Those fortunate enough to attend the event should savor every moment. The chances of seeing this type of star power up close and personal, and all in one building, may be few and far between.
For this one night, Durant and company showed the rest of the world what they’ll be missing out on if the labor dispute drags past the scheduled start of the 2011-12 season.
By putting on an epic show for the hoops-hungry fans in attendance and watching remotely, it was a small victory for the players and fans alike, but still only a minute battle in a much larger war.