Thunder 113, Wolves 103: I want a Kevin Durant for Christmas
Tickle Me Elmo can go kick rocks. I want a Kevin Durant for Christmas. How do you get one of those? Are they harder to find than a PS4 right now? Does anybody know where I can get a PS4 and a Kevin Durant right now?
I firmly believe Kevin Love is a star in this league and capable of leading a really good team deep into the playoffs. I’m not sure I believe he’s that guy on a true title contender, but Love is certainly good enough to get a team toward the end of the second round. Maybe if you get a road like the Memphis Grizzlies had last year, you could see Love getting a shot in the Western Conference finals in the future with a team like the Wolves have put around him. There are plenty of detractors when it comes to Love as a franchise piece. Personally, I think it’s crazy to look at what he does on a basketball court and say he isn’t a number one guy.
His skill set is sort of unmatched in the NBA. He has a unique blend of finesse and power in his game and we all know he allegedly does the most with the least. He can score inside, outside, midrange, and get his team easy buckets with his passing ability. He’s the top rebounder in the NBA. And the team is actually significantly better defensively with him on the floor this season than when he’s out of the game. Whether that’s by coincidence or production, I’m not sure we have enough evidence to say just quite yet.
However, there are number one players on a franchise team and then there is Kevin Durant.
Other than LeBron James, there isn’t a single player I would even consider taking over Kevin Durant right now. I know this is shocking, groundbreaking basketball talk here but I think sometimes we forget just how absurd Kevin Durant is. He’s a 6’11” wing player with a 7’4″ wingspan that can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor. Not only that but he’s capable of putting the ball on the floor to create room for a jumper, drop the defender and get straight to the rim, or create a scoring chance for a teammate. He gets to the free throw line seemingly whenever he wants to. It’s almost impossible to take away a shot he wants to take and you’re left with hoping you’ve contested him enough to screw up his shooting motion.
We watched the Wolves get a lead against the Thunder Sunday night and they held it for a pretty long time. Considering the Thunder are whole again (not like we saw them in the second game of the season when they were missing Russell Westbrook) and clicking like they were last season, to hold that lead or win the game in Oklahoma City would have been a huge feat. Since trading James Harden, the Thunder are 43-7 at home, 9-0 this season after beating the Wolves. It doesn’t mean the Wolves shouldn’t win that game, but I understand why the lead was bending and then finally broke, only not to be fixed again.
The Wolves worked really hard to take Durant away from scoring in the second half and instead of forcing the action, he accepted his fate. He still scored 12 points on 5/10 shooting in the second half, but he absorbed the help defense of the Wolves and dished out nine assists after halftime. The Thunder seemed to adjust to what the Wolves were doing much better than what the Wolves did against the Thunder. The Wolves took advantage of turnovers by the Thunder in the first half and it was how they built their lead, despite surrendering 58.1% shooting from the field.
The second half was a different story. The Thunder kept shooting at a high percentage (54.5%) but stopped turning the ball over. Without the constant chaos fueling the Wolves attack, they got sucked into a halfcourt game. The Thunder are one of the five best defensive teams in the league. If you get sucked into a halfcourt game against them, you have to be exceptional to break their defense, especially at home. The Wolves were hardly perfect in that respect.
Kevin Love was 1/8 in the second half. Kevin Martin was 1/7 and Corey Brewer was 1/5. You just can’t have those three guys be so ineffective scoring the ball from the field and expect to pull off the upset on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Nikola Pekovic was incredibly effective in the second half of that game, scoring 14 points on eight shot attempts but it wasn’t enough. When you compare the fact that Martin-Love-Brewer accounted for 18 points after halftime compared to Durant’s 22 points just off passing (34 points overall in the second half), it shouldn’t shock anybody that the Wolves dropped this game.
The Wolves should have won this game. They were set up to win this game with a strong effort through the first three quarters. A 35-20 fourth quarter turned this from a winnable game to another frustrating loss. I’m not sure if JJ Barea playing so long into the fourth quarter was the reason they lost as some on Twitter decided after the final buzzer. Rotations on the second night of a back-to-back can be odd and I’d rather look big picture than worry too much about losses this early in the season. Other people will disagree with that and that’s fine with me.
I saw Kevin Durant play like only one other guy in the world can play. He racked up 32 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and four steals. He shot 66.7% from the field and had just two turnovers. Kevin Durant was an elite superstar Sunday night and the Wolves didn’t have enough to match that on the road. On a lot of nights, I believe Kevin Love can battle against this Thunder team and do more to give his team a shot to win this ball game. We’ve seen him put them in position against the Thunder before. That didn’t happen Sunday night.
Kevin Durant happened. I want one.