AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kevin Durant scored a game-high 37 points and came within two rebounds and three assists of a triple-double on Friday night.
And all anyone is likely to be talking about a day later is the play of Steven Adams.
The rookie center out of Pittsburgh continues to impress with strong play early this season, and against one of the league's best front lines Adams took home his first double-double in the Thunder's 119-110 victory at Detroit.
Adams scored 17 points, shot 7-for-10 from the field, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished three assists and blocked three shots in 30 minutes off the bench. It was the first double-double by a Thunder rookie since Serge Ibaka scored 13 points with 10 rebounds against Toronto on Feb. 28, 2010.
“I thought Steven had just a terrific game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The young man is getting better and better every day because he works hard. He has great hands, and he finishes around the basket. Those are the things that we expect him to continue to get better at.”
By halftime, Adams had recorded eight points on 4-for-5 shooting, with three rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 11 minutes. In that stretch, he showed flashes of great timing, terrific footwork and superb finishes.
On one possession, Adams, while in transition, caught an overthrown pass from Reggie Jackson before gathering, pivoting and finishing with a pretty reverse layup. Two minutes later, Adams flew into a crowded lane following a missed jumper by Jackson and tipped the ball up and in.
Adams' impact was as palpable on the stat sheet as it was to the naked eye. When the Thunder went into the locker room with a four-point lead, Adams was a plus-14 in the plus-minus category, a game-high.
He was just getting warmed up.
In the second half, Adams produced one jaw-dropping play after another. When Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko beat the defense with a baseline drive and looked to finish a reverse layup, Adams denied him by pinning the attempt to the backboard, controlling it on the way down and giving OKC possession. In a half-court set, Adams later set a screen for Jackson and rolled hard to the rim, catching a bounce pass while in route before finishing with a rhythmic layup.
Adams sparked a fantastic effort from the Thunder's bench, which scored 42 points with 20 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and three blocked shots while turning it over only once.
“I think he's just trying his best to keep the game simple and not overthink it,” Thunder guard Derek Fisher said of Adams. “That's the toughest part as a first-year player. I think so far, not just tonight but so far this season, he's done a good job of it.”
Most impressive Friday was that Adams turned in a terrific performance against the best competition he's seen thus far. With forward Josh Smith joining Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Pistons have constructed a front line that many consider one of the best in basketball. But on this night, Adams thoroughly outplayed Drummond, who came into the game averaging 11.3 points and 11.3 rebounds. Adams helped limit him to four points and three rebounds. Drummond committed four fouls in 23 minutes.
For much of the second half, Adams matched up with Monroe and played him to a virtual draw. Adams was so good that Brooks had no choice but to play him all but four minutes, 28 seconds of the second half. Adams sat for only the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I didn't know what type of numbers he would put up, but I just know he plays so hard and he plays the game the right way,” said Russell Westbrook. “And I think when you do that stuff just flows for you.”
But Adams again said he's not concerned with his stats.
“The only one that matters is that we win,” Adams said when asked about his numbers. “As long as we've got more points than the other team, we're straight.”
Adams, who is proving to be a perfectionist, incredibly went on to point out his flaws.
“I don't care about the double-double,” he said. “The fact is that doesn't mean anything because I still performed badly on the defensive end, defensive assignments that I had to do. So that's what I'm really worried about.”