Even the Hang Time Blog on NBA.com is convinced: Kevin Durant is the obvious MVP front-runner at this time.
Although that’s not to say the Trail Blazers didn’t make him earn it. This was the battle for sole possession of 1st place in the Northwest Division, so there was plenty of motivation to win for both sides last night.
The Blazers started quickly, opening the game with a 7-0 run that eventually extended to 11-2 by the 7:53 mark of the 1st quarter. The Blazer lead was still 9 at the 51.4 second mark, when Durant scored the Thunder’s last 5 points of the quarter, with only a LaMarcus Aldridge lay-up interrupting the scoring run. The 1st ended with the Blazers up 27-21.
The Blazers started the 2nd on a 5-0 run that gave them an 11-point lead with 11:07 left in the half (32-21). The Blazers were still holding that 11-point lead at the 8:09 mark (36-25), when a 6-0 Thunder run cut the Blazer lead to 5 (36-31) with 6:38 to play in the 2nd. The Blazer lead was still at 5 (41-36) with 5:34 to play when they started a 5-0 run that reestablished a double-digit lead (46-36) with 4:45 remaining in the half. The Blazer lead was at 7 (50-43) with 2:11 remaining in the first half, when the Thunder hit an 8-0 scoring run to give the Thunder their first lead of the night (51-50) with 8.3 seconds left in the half. Unfortunately, the Thunder left too much time on the clock, as Damian Lillard drives the length of the court to lay it in with 00.2 seconds left on the clock. The Blazers escaped into halftime clinching a 1-point lead (52-51).
Although it began to seem like every time the Thunder would threaten to take the lead, the Blazers would beat them back. The Thunder were finally able to tie the game at 62-all with 7:07 left in the 3rd, only for the Blazers to reestablish a 9-point advantage (73-64) via an 11-2 run with 3:02 remaining in the quarter. The score was still 75-66 in favor if the Blazers with 2:35 to play in the period, when the Thunder ended the quarter on an 11-0 run to establish a 2-point Thunder lead heading into the 4th quarter (77-75), which was their largest lead of the game to this point.
The Thunder run finally finished at 12-0 to give the Thunder a 3-point lead (78-75) with 11:45 to play. The Blazers had no intentions of just rolling over for the 4th however. The score was tied at 87-all with 7:27 to play, when the Blazers sparked a 6-1 run to establish a 5-point lead (93-88) with a mere 4:57 left in the game. That’s when the Thunder decided that they’d had enough of the Blazers, shutting them down with a brilliant 17-2 run to close the game 105-95 with 26.8 seconds remaining. Lillard added 2 to the Blazers total to end the game, but the damage was done, and the Thunder finally “douse the Blaze” for the first time this season by a score of 105-97. The Thunder move to 32-10 with this victory, while the Blazers fall a full game behind in the Northwest division, sitting at 31-11.
Durant’s 46-point offering has many NBA fans and analysts calling him the MVP front-runner, and it’s obvious why. This is now his eighth consecutive game with 30+ points. With this performance, Durant now has the top four scoring performances in the NBA this season (54, 48 twice, and 46). It’s a lot easier to win when your teammates provide help, however. Reggie Jackson dropped 15 points of his own, while Serge Ibaka put down 10. And Derek Fisher added 10 points from the Thunder bench.
Although you don’t lose a valiant effort like that without some serious performances. LaMarcus Aldridge had a monster 29-point, 16-rebound double-double, but just tired out at the end, missing his last six shots from the field. The only 4 points scored by Aldridge in the last 7 minutes all came off of free throws. Robin Lopez posted a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double of his own, as Wesley Matthews drops 21 points, and Damien Lillard cashes in on 14. Mo Williams contributed 13 points from the Blazers bench.
Now fatigue could potentially be a factor for the Thunder, as they face the second game of a back-to-back, traveling to AT&T Center to take on the top-seeded Spurs. Out of 5 back-to-backs this season, the Thunder have swept 2, split 2, and been swept in 1, resulting in a 6-4 record over those 10 games. And out of both splits, the loss came on the back-end of the back-to-back. The Spurs have been doing well this year, but the Thunder seem to have their number. A Nov. 27th meeting resulted in a 94-88 Thunder victory, while a December 21st contest resulted in a similar outcome: a 113-100 Thunder victory. The Spurs will try to solve the Thunder puzzle when tip-off happens at 8:30 pm CST. The game will be brought to you via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.