Jeremy Lamb was just as vital. He came off the bench and scored 18 points in a season-high 35 minutes.
“Them young guys are gamers, man,” Durant said. “Jeremy Lamb is a gamer; Perry Jones. They want it. They want that opportunity.”
Lately, they've been getting it.
The Miami experiment provided only more pivotal experience for Jones and Lamb, both of whom are showing terrific signs of in-season growth. Their impact Wednesday came three games after both played at least 30 minutes in an 18-point win at Boston on Jan. 24. Jones started in place of an injured Durant that game, and the two combined for 29 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals and only two turnovers.
“We've got a lot of guys who can play,” said Nick Collison. “We've been saying that all year.”
It's become more evident than ever now that the Thunder is rolling despite missing Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City is riding a nine-game winning streak entering Friday's game at Brooklyn. It's a credit to Durant's sizzling scoring streak, of course. But it's also been a product of the increasing contributions of unheralded young guns like Jones and Lamb.
Gamers just gunning for more and more opportunities.
“We use every game as a confidence-builder,” said Lamb. “We're trying to get as much experience as we can. We're trying to take every game and learn from it. We're trying to get better every game.”