Frigid conditions didn’t faze Kevin Durant.
But he didn't become too much for the New Orleans Hornets to handle until his team’s defense finally warmed up.
Durant scored a game-high 43 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-93 win over the Hornets on Wednesday night.
It was the third time in four games that Durant, the NBA’s reigning scoring champ and current scoring leader, has poured in at least 40 points. Durant tied his career high with 47 points in a one-point overtime win at Minnesota last Wednesday and followed that with a 40-point night against Washington last Friday in a double-overtime victory.
“He’s probably the MVP of the league right now,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “You put a string of games together like that and you put yourself in a different class.”
Durant, who bumped his season average to 29.2 points, sat on his final total midway through the final period and had a shot for 50. But he selflessly chose to not force the action. After scoring his final bucket on a pull-up jumper with 5:44 remaining, Durant began playing the role of playmaker. He created open shots for Jeff Green, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka. But missed shots held Durant to just two assists in the final frame.
“I never complain about Kevin making the right play, whether it’s him shooting or him passing to a teammate,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Kevin is a smart player. He understands that when he has the hot hand there is going to be a lot of bodies covering him.”
Instead of a scoring milestone, Durant can be satisfied with the win. The Thunder both atoned for the buzzer-beating, game-winner Hornets forward David West hit in the last meeting and won the season series with New Orleans 3-1. Now, the Thunder (31-17) holds the potential tiebreaker for playoff seeding should the Hornets (32-19 finish with an identical record.
“We got that in the back of our minds,” Durant said.