This isn’t anything new for Kevin Durant. Clutch shooting has become a bit of a staple in his NBA career. When the final minute is winding down, and you have a Kevin Durant on your team, you put the ball in his hands without question. He won’t close every time, but he closes enough for anyone to want to put their faith in the man in the closing seconds, and let him work his magic. Although with the way the Hawks were dominating certain sections of last night’s contest, it’s amazing Durant even had a chance at a game-winner at all.
The Thunder’s only lead before Durant’s game-clinching jump shot was in the opening seconds, when a Kendrick Perkins turnaround fadeaway made the score 2-0 Thunder. That’s when the Hawks went on an immediate 9-0 run to give them a 7-point lead (9-2) with 8:51 remaining in the 1st. The Hawks’ lead was pushed to as many as 11 in the 1st quarter, but the Thunder were able to cut the lead slightly, making it a 32-26 Hawks lead going into the 2nd quarter.
A Jeremy Lamb dunk to start the 2nd cut the Hawks’ lead to 4 (32-28), but an immediate 7-0 Hawks run put the lead right back at 11 (39-28) with 9:26 to play in the period. The Thunder pulled within 5 a couple of times in the 2nd, but when they did it at the 5:53 mark (46-41), the Hawks utilized another 9-0 run to give them a 14-point advantage (55-41) with 3:51 remaining in the half. The lead was 13 (57-44) for the Hawks at the 3:09 mark, when the Thunder defense clamped down, and Durant popped two 3-pointers to close the lead to 7 (57-50) at the break.
With the score 59-52 at the 11:27 mark in the 3rd, the Hawks went on another run of 8-1 to establish another 14-point lead (67-53) with 9:22 to play in the 3rd. Then the Thunder went on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 5 (67-62) with 8:03 remaining in the quarter. This was immediately followed by an 8-2 Hawks run that pushed the lead back to 9 (75-64) with 6:14 left in the period. A lot of back-and-forth ensued at this point, as the Thunder were only able to cut the lead to 8 (87-79) going into the 4th.
The Thunder utilized an 8-0 run of their own, started at the 0:35.1 mark of the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 4 (87-83) with 11:15 to play. The Hawks were doing everything in their power to hold the Thunder at bay until the final buzzer, still clinging onto a 3-point lead (107-104) with 3:35 remaining. That’s when the bottom fell out for the Hawks. Durant ended the game on a 7-2 run of his own, culminating in his game-winning pull-up jumper with 1.5 seconds left. The Thunder would go on to sweep the season series by a score of 111-109, putting them at 36-10 for the season, while dropping the Hawks to 23-21.
Durant’s 41 points obviously had him as the leading scorer to take the floor. But his 41-point performance also marks his 11th consecutive 30+ point performance. According to Bleacher Report, Durant has scored 30+ points in at least five consecutive games five different times, making him the only active player to accomplish that feat. The fact that his amazing scoring streak and efficiency are being pulled off without the Russell Westbrook safety net says even more about Durant’s silky smooth scoring ability. A couple of other Thunder players made sizeable contributions, as Reggie Jackson dropped 18 points, and Lamb hit 14 off of the Thunder bench.
The loss comes as a major shock to the Hawks, seeing as they had seven different players score in double-figures, and another player pull down double-digit rebounds. Paul Milsap’s 23 points led the way for the Hawks, as Shelvin Mack and DeMarre Carroll dropped 15 points apiece, Kyle Korver chipped in 14, and Gustavo Ayon claimed 10 rebounds. Mike Scott, Dennis Schroder, and Louis Williams accounted for all 36 of the Hawks’ bench points. Scott finished with 16 points, and Schroder and Williams finished with 10 apiece.
They rest today before “taking their talents to South Beach” for a showdown with LeBron James and the Miami Heat for their first matchup of the season. The contest will be emanating from American Airlines Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.