NEW YORK — Shaun Livingston didn’t deserve this.
And you can bet Kevin Durant didn’t want to do it to his friend and former teammate.
But it had to be done.
The streak had to continue.
So Durant lit up Livingston much like he’s done each of the previous handful of opponents who stood in his team’s way during this improbable run.
Durant scored 22 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to power the Thunder to a dominating 120-95 win over Brooklyn on Friday night inside the Barclays Center.
Durant’s streak of 12 straight games with at least 30 points was snapped, but the one he cares for most continued, as the Thunder bumped its league-best winning streak to 10 games.
“Man, I’m glad that’s over with,” a chuckling Durant said of his barrage of 30-plus-point outbursts. “I’d much rather take the win. That’s my type of game, just playing how is played. If they’re doubling, make the pass. Play easy. I wasn’t trying to force anything. That streak was good while it lasted, but that was the last of my concerns. I’m glad we won.”
With the Thunder constructing a comfortable lead that swelled to as many as 32 points midway through the third period, Durant never saw the floor in the fourth. He exited the game with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter. Before he departed, he spent much of his final seven minutes playing possum, picking apart the Nets by exploiting their aggressive double teams with precise passes that routinely set up teammates for open shots.
Durant made 10 of his 12 shot attempts and clearly could have erupted for another 40 had he forced the issue. But he had other ideas.
“That’s how you win games is playing the right way on both ends,” Durant said when asked why playing that style is so important to him. “It’s easy for me to try to force it and keep the streak alive, but we needed this win because they beat us last time and that got them going. That got their season going. So we just wanted to come in here and try to get better from when we played them last and get the ‘W.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he never considered reinserting Durant for the fourth quarter.
“Not at all,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t even matter to him. I’ve been around him for several years. It’s not important. He’s a team guy. He’s about winning.”
Brooks said he also didn’t ask Durant if he wanted to go back in for more.
“I would never ask him, because I know the answer,” Brooks said. “I wouldn’t do that. But he’s going to be in this league for a long time, and he’s going to have streaks like this probably again. It’s not like he played a bad basketball game. I mean, he did have 30 points.”
Brooks playfully blamed Durant for coming up short.
“If he cared about the streak, he should have never missed the two shots,” Brooks joked. “That’s on him. You can’t blame that on me.”
But in many ways, Durant’s performance Friday was every bit as sensational as his scoring spree over the previous 12 outings. He matched Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson for a game-high seven assists and helped the Thunder shoot an NBA season-high 63.6 percent.
The unselfishness Durant displayed at Brooklyn was representative of what he had spent all January doing — drawing defenses and dishing to open teammates, effectively making everyone a threat. It’s become a leading reason, along with Durant’s scoring tear, why the Thunder has been able to win 10 straight without starting point guard Russell Westbrook.
“That’s the type of player he is,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “He’s so talented that he can get a shot off probably every time and it’s going to be a decent shot. But at that same time, he runs plays and makes guys around him a lot better. That’s the staple of a true MVP, a true champion.”
Led by Durant and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder put away the Nets early. OKC closed the first quarter on a 13-0 run, turning a 17-16 advantage into a 14-point lead entering the second period. Durant, Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for 29 of the Thunder’s 30 first-quarter points.
Durant scored or assisted teammates on 19 of the Thunder’s points. Brooklyn totaled just 16 in the period.
Brooklyn never got closer than 13 points.
“The other guys were able to be effective,” said Nets forward Paul Pierce. “I think we focused in so much on what Durant’s been doing the last couple weeks, you tend to forget these other guys. And that’s when they come in there and have big games.”
Ibaka chipped in 25 points on 12-for-12 shooting. Sefolosha and Jackson added 14 apiece.
But the night again belonged to Durant.
He was 8-for-9 from the field in the first half, an 88.9 percent clip that marked a season high for him in any half. He wowed the crowd with 3-pointers that came on step-backs and pull-ups, two alley-oop dunks off feeds from Jackson and a series of gorgeous mid-range jumpers against tight defense.
Durant scored 22 of his 26 points against Livingston, who played for the Thunder for parts of the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. The other four came on a pair of technical foul shots and a jumper over Reggie Evans.
But while everyone was watching Durant, the hottest player on the planet at the moment, he was more wrapped up in playing the right way and, as he put it, getting the ‘W.’
“I hate taking the credit when our whole team is going out there and playing well,” Durant said. “It was cool, don’t get me wrong. It’s something not to be taken for granted. But I’d rather our team get the credit than just myself.”