A grassroots movement is happening in Oklahoma City.
And up until the final three minutes of Friday night’s 127-121 win over Golden State, it needed help getting off the ground.
Only a few brave souls dared to be different.
They stood. They cleared their throats. They dug deep. And they chanted.
Kevin Durant deserved it.
But only when he stepped to the foul line with 2:45 left to play and a chance to push his career high in scoring to 54, did the rest of the Thunder faithful join in.
An ovation that has been long overdue finally swept through Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It took 20 games for the home fans to catch on.
When they did, the man of the hour took note.
“I mean, it is 20,000 people in here,” Durant said of the crowd. “It’s kind of hard not to hear it.”
Now it’s up to the rest of the league to come to.
Durant continued his downright dominance in the absence of teammate and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook and made another statement in his season-long campaign for his first Most Valuable Player award.
He worked over the Warriors for 44 minutes Friday, beating them at their own game, splashing in shots and lighting up the scoreboard. He made 19 of 28 from the floor, went 5-for-9 from 3-point range and nailed 11 of his 13 foul shots.
He added four rebounds and six assists.
“It’s premature,” Durant countered when asked about the MVP chants. “It’s still early in the season. I try not to think about that type of stuff. Of course, as a player, you would love to win the MVP award. But I can’t think about that. I can’t take my focus off the team. Every day I got to just keep chipping away and keep enjoying the process and we’ll see what happens.”
Durant has scored at least 30 points 23 times this season. Friday was his fourth time this year pumping in at least 40 points.
Ten of his 30-point performances have come in the last 12 contests, a stretch that coincides with Westbrook undergoing a third surgical procedure on his right knee.
Durant is averaging 36.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists over that same span. He’s shot 50 percent from the field during this run.
“I have a good job,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, only half-jokingly when asked what goes through his mind while watching Durant erupt for 50-plus points.
“He had a game tonight where he was hard to contain,” Brooks added. “When a special player in the league has a hot hand, it’s not a lot you can do.”
Durant’s surge has shot his league-leading scoring average to 30 points. If he maintains this pace, it’ll be the second time he’s averaged 30 points for a season. The last time was 2009-10, when he finished with a 30.1-point average.
He’s added eight rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals, all career highs. His Player Efficiency Rating (29.57) also leads all players.
That efficiency was again on display Friday.
Durant poured in 29 points by halftime, making 11 of 14 shots to help the Thunder keep up with the fast-paced Warriors and sit on a 71-65 lead at the break.
Durant scored a quiet 10 in the third quarter before emphatically slamming the door shut on Golden State with 15 points in the fourth as the Warriors tried to make one last push.
With the Warriors within nine inside the final seven minutes, Durant scored 13 straight for the Thunder to put the game out of reach at 123-109 with 2:45 remaining. He hit three straight 3-pointers during the rally and nailed a turnaround jumper before stepping to the line for the free throws that finally compelled the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd to shower him with the MVP chant.
“We needed it,” said Nick Collison of Durant’s performance. “But I think the good thing about it is he really didn’t force much. He didn’t take very many bad shots. He was able to get a lot of it in rhythm, and it was an incredible performance. We have seen it a few times before, but he’s really got it going.”