James Harden gets the big headlines, but Kevin Durant quietly led Thunder to victory

Sure James Harden deserves top billing for hitting the biggest shot of this series, and his life. But the 27 points Durant crammed into three quarters carried the Thunder in Game 5.
by Mike Sherman Published: June 5, 2012

Manu called Durant “either the best player in the world or one of the top three or five.” His coach topped Ginobili in the pregame, going all planetary, though leaving the door open for argument. Afterward, however, Popovich was in no mood to argue about Durant's place among the game's stars.

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.”


by Mike Sherman
Sports Editor
Mike Sherman is sports editor of The Oklahoman, where he has a combined 18 years of service during two stints as a writer and an editor. He covered high school sports for The Oklahoman from 1984-93. He also worked as a news writer for the...
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