Even after he had embraced everyone on the Thunder payroll, congratulated anyone in Grizzlies blue, soaked in the series-clinching celebration and conducted a postgame television interview, Kevin Durant still had one more thing to do before he left the court Sunday afternoon.
He made a beeline to his family and friends sitting courtside at the Oklahoma City Arena and hugged each and every one of them.
This was a day to celebrate.
Thunder 105, Grizzlies 90.
On an afternoon when Oklahoma City had lots of stars as it punched its playoff ticket to the Western Conference Finals, Durant notched the best performance of his already storied career. He scored 39 points. He fueled the Thunder. What's more, he did so less than 48 hours after a clunker of a game.
“Durant ... showed the heart of a champion,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
This was a defining moment for Durant.
This was the kind of game that will be highlighted in the early years of his career when he's some day inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
What Durant did Sunday in a high-stakes, winner-take-all Game 7 is impressive on its own, but against the backdrop of his Game 6 no-show, it is even more remarkable. Last we saw Durant, he looked nothing like the league's two-time scoring champ, chucking up ugly shots and getting even uglier results.
“I guess I can say it now — he stunk last game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Um, even if he wasn't saying that after Friday night's game, the rest of the basketball world was. Durant had as many missed shots as points scored. Eleven was the tally on both.
Worse, he hit just one basket in the final 44 minutes of the game.
“That wasn't me at all Game 6,” Durant said Sunday. “I was so upset with myself that I kind of let my guys down by not playing my game.
“I wasn't aggressive at all.”
Durant just kept firing from 3-point range. While some of them were out of necessity — the Thunder was down late and needed points — a vast majority were the result of Durant not being able to get any better looks. He wasn't catching the ball on his spot. He wasn't creating separation. He wasn't getting to the rim.
Durant knew that had to change.
“Come in aggressive,” he told himself Sunday. “Start the game off aggressive.”
His reward for doing that?
A 2-of-9 start.
That first-quarter performance could've done in Durant, but he kept battling. He came off a screen midway through the second quarter, caught the ball in the lane and made a little jumper.
The next possession, he hit a 3-pointer on a Russell Westbrook assist.
Durant hit all four of the shots he took in the second quarter and hit 11 of 16 shots the last three quarters of the game. He got shots in rhythm. He got looks where he wanted them.
No doubt, Durant got some help from his enforcers — Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. Those big guys are the ones who most often set high screens for Durant, and Sunday, they were at their best.
“We were body-on-body screens (Sunday),” Brooks said, “and that enables Kevin.”
Hollins said: “They made some adjustments. They ran a little different set that didn't allow us to help as much as we had been. They ran the pick-and-roll that they run with him a little bit differently.”
But in the end, it's up to Durant to knock down the shots that he takes. And in the pressure cooker that is Game 7, that's no easy task.
Durant stepped up and performed on the NBA's biggest stage.
“There's so many things that I'm proud of Kevin for, but the main thing is he works every day — every day — to be a great player,” Brooks said. “He doesn't take any of it for granted, so I knew he would come back and have a fantastic game.”
It was more than fantastic.
It was defining.