We all know about Kevin Durant’s clutch shot making ability. He’s slammed the door on countless teams before, and he did it again with 6 seconds to go in regulation. Initially, KD was expressionless, stonefaced. He’s been here before. But as a smile crept onto his face, you could see how much it meant to him.
Something we haven’t seen as much of is his defensive playmaking ability, but he closed the door on the Clips on that end as well. On the game’s final possession, Serge Ibaka lost Chris Paul for just a split-second–plenty of time for a world-caliber player to sink a shot. Durant, using his length and quickness, rotated to help and swatted Paul’s shot. Game over.
“I feel like my defense has grown,” he said after the game. “Coaches challenged me at the start of the year just to step it up to another level on the defensive end. I’ve just been trying to play as hard as I can.”
Until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, it was a relatively ugly game for Oklahoma City. As they’re prone to do, though, Westbrook and Durant took over down the stretch en route to a 101-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The game-winning shot and subsequent block by Durant never would have happened had Dion Waiters been able to cleanly inbound the ball to Westbrook, up by one with 14 seconds to go and no shot clock. Chris Paul cleanly stole the inbounds and laid it up to give the Clippers a one point advantage.
Speaking of ugliness, KD and Westbrook shot a combined 16-41 at one point. Durant needed 24 shots to get as many points. He also shot 1-7 from deep. Westbrook scored 33 but needed 25 shots to get there.
Those kinds of games happen in an 82 game grind. The most important thing is the final score, and the Thunder will be happy to put it behind them because of their victory.
For the Clippers, fourth quarter meltdowns have been the story of their season. They held the lead in the final quarter in both of their games against the Warriors, as well as against the Spurs. In the upper echelon of the Western Conference, there’s no room for teams who can’t finish.
OKC improves to 19-9, while the Clippers fall to 16-13. Next up for the Thunder: another game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Tipoff is at 9:30.