Before Wednesday night’s game, Kevin Durant had one more MVP engagement to attend. It was a center court ceremony, with commissioner Adam Silver officially presenting him with the award.
Silver complimented Oklahoma City, its citizens, the Thunder organization and eventually Durant, before turning over the microphone to him.
“Thank you, guys,” Durant told the crowd. “The last few days have been overwhelming for me...I wouldn’t want to share this award with nobody but you guys in here. Now it’s time for you guys to be as loud as you can tonight. We need this game.”
And Durant and the Thunder got it, 112-101 over the Clippers.
Late in the first half on Wednesday night, some of the lighting in the arena went out, briefly stopping play. It was because of a power surge, caused by lightning.
The teams agreed to finish out the final 27 seconds of the first half in dim lighting and by the time the second half got underway, the lighting had returned.
DURANT TRYING TO COMBAT FREE THROW STRUGGLES
In every regular season or postseason run the past seven years, Durant has never shot lower than 83 percent at the line.
But this season, through his first eight playoff games, the career 88 percent free-throw shooter was hitting only 75 percent at the line.
“I can’t shoot 75, 74 percent in the playoffs,” Durant said. “I have to be better.”
To fix that, Durant said he’s been putting in extra work.
“Just gotta get back to the basics,” Durant said before Game 2. “Just focus on my follow through and stay confident.”
On Wednesday night, Durant went 9-of-11 from the line.
WESTBROOK COMMENTS ON SPEECH
Russell Westbrook never wondered or worried about whether Durant would leave him out of his acceptance speech Tuesday when he was crowned the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Even though it took quite a while for Durant to make his way to his star point guard after snaking his way through each teammate before saving Westbrook for last.
“I was just happy to hear some of the things he thought about some of the other guys on our team and the little things that guys have done for him to make him feel the way he felt,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook confirmed what Durant said in his speech. That, yes, he would indeed run through a wall for Durant.
“Of course,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook classified Tuesday’s ceremony “one of those moments that you won’t forget.”
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to be the best player on the planet. Only a few can say (they’re an NBA MVP),” Westbrook said. “He definitely deserved it. He’s worked extremely hard to put himself in position to be where he is now. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
SPEECH HIT HOME FOR BROOKS
The best part of Durant’s MVP acceptance speech in the eyes of coach Scott Brooks was the tribute to his mother.
It was the most touching moment for many, but Brooks identified with it on a personal level.
“That’s what hit me the most,” Brooks said. “I’m going back, and my mom’s birthday was a couple of days ago. So that’s obviously very emotional for me.”
Brooks’ mother died in January 2013.
RIVERS’ ALSO APPLAUDS SPEECH
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was also among those impressed by Durant’s speech.
“I thought it was great, I was really moved by it,” Rivers said. “…His mom and him and his brother had been through so much. It's rare that you get a chance to publicly thank your parents. I thought that was really cool.”
Notables in the house on Wednesday night: NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Sacramento mayor and former player Kevin Johnson, multimillionaire and NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein, former Dallas Cowboys star Troy Aikman and rap mogul Jay Z, who is also Durant’s agent.
Oklahoma City keeps benefitting from Durant’s MVP.
As a tribute to Durant’s prestigious award, OKC-area Pizza Huts have announced a special deal from now until the Thunder is out of the playoffs. With any order of a large pizza, you can add another pizza for 35 cents, an ode to Durant’s number.
It is being called the MVPizza deal.
Game 3 is on Friday night in Los Angeles. Tip is at 9:30 Oklahoma time on ESPN.