Word of the Spurs coach's praise, however, did get back to Durant.
“Well, I appreciate that, I guess,” Durant said. “He's trying to fire up his team a little bit, as well, to get underneath me tonight. They did a great job of pushing me off and fighting me and making it tough for me. But Popovich has been around for a long time, and I really appreciate that.”
He really didn't look the part through the first half, shooting 1 of 6 and scoring five points. Somehow, the Thunder still manage to lead 52-44 at half.
And then came his 13-point third quarter, started by a jumper at the 9:38 mark that gave the Thunder a 54-52 lead and capped by a period-ending jumper. Things got wild in the fourth quarter, and Durant's defense was vital on the last possession as he forced Ginobili into a tough, tough shot.
For all the meaning injected into this triumph, Durant admitted afterward he had a little extra motivation. When a reporter asked what it all meant to him, Durant mentioned his uncle Tyrone, who watched from a hospital room. Only after some prodding did he elaborate on why this game means even more to him.
“All I can say is I just wanted to win for him tonight,” Durant said. “He's watching. He's been watching me ever since I was a kid. It was weighing heavy on me.”