EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With little left to cheer in New Jersey’s lost season, Nets fans set their sights on Kevin Durant on Monday night, showing the third-year Thunder forward the star treatment in Oklahoma City’s 105-89 win at IZOD Center.
Many of the still festive 15,335 in the Meadowlands showered Durant with applause after each of his game-high 40 points.
One 20-something female fan marveled at the 23 points displayed on the end zone stat monitor next to No. 35 as she returned to her seat from the Courtside Club early in the third quarter. A Nets employee, during a timeout with 3:40 remaining in the fourth and Durant stuck on 38 points, said to another, “I want to see him get 40.”
A media member seated on press row even had Durant on his fantasy team, making certain to check his roto-league squad and the player he picked fourth overall — ahead of Dwyane Wade.
“That was a little fun,” Durant said of the crowd’s reaction to his exploits. “I didn’t expect that at all.”
Durant, though, enjoyed playing crowd-pleaser. His steal and breakaway one-handed dunk with 1:36 remaining put him at the 40-point plateau, tying his season high. But it was his baseline drive and reverse slam with 6:01 left to play that brought the crowd to its feet, some of them gasping in awe but most of them gathering their things to head home.
Durant made 15 of 22 shots in 40 minutes to go with five rebounds and two assists. His 11-foot floater to beat the halftime buzzer gave the Thunder a six-point lead at the break and one more of his many highlights on this night.
And yet, for as tantalizing as Durant’s big plays were, it was a 5½-minute stretch to end the third period that proved Durant deserves his growing star status.
With 5:41 left in the quarter, Nets guard Terrance Williams found Courtney Lee in the corner for a 3-pointer that put the home team up 72-70, its first lead since 4:01 to play in the second period. Durant then scored or assisted on 11 of the Thunder’s final 14 points in the period.