The payoff for Kevin Durant came on two plays, a discreet set of decisions that validated the scores of simulated situationals, the endless post-practice repetitions and, at times, his expletive-laced frustration.
While we wait on the Thunder’s star forward to consistently make the big shot, Durant showed Tuesday night that he’s capable and more than comfortable in making the right play. Without Durant’s 33-point, 11-rebound performance against Atlanta, the Thunder wouldn’t have been in the game. But had it not been for Durant’s three assists, the last pair on back-to-back possessions inside the final two minutes, the Thunder possibly fails to escape with a 106-99 win. On this night, those two critical assists were as big as any of Durant’s errant game-winners would have been. They proved Durant is rapidly maturing and his Thunder teammates are right alongside him. Oklahoma City has lost more than its fair share of games like this, one that featured 17 ties and seven lead changes and saw the Hawks storm back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. But when Atlanta tied it at 89-all with 5:47 left to play, Durant took over. He scored or assisted on 11 of the Thunder’s final 17 points. When Atlanta later pulled within two at 95-93, Durant hit a stepback jumper.
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