Kevin Durant just keeps on finding ways to outdo himself.
One night it’s a triple-double.
The next it’s a game-winner.
It’s been that type of month for the Thunder star, and each performance leaves you wondering what on earth he’ll do next.
Durant scored 13 of his game-high 41 points in the fourth quarter Monday night and nailed the game-winning shot with 1.5 seconds remaining to lift the Thunder to a comeback 111-109 win over Atlanta inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It was the Thunder’s eighth straight win.
It was Durant’s fifth 40-point game this month and extended his streak of 30-plus point games to 11.
“There are very few people in the world who have the ability to do what he’s doing,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison. “He’s playing great, the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
This time, the Thunder needed every drop of Durant’s magic to overcome a shorthanded but upset-minded Hawks squad.
Atlanta came to town missing its two best players, center Al Horford, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and point guard Jeff Teague, who missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle.
Still, the Hawks gave the Thunder all it could handle, coming out hot from 3-point range, hitting eight of their first 11 from that distance and nearly maintaining that blistering pace throughout against a lethargic Thunder defense.
Thanks to the Thunder’s inability to get stops, the Hawks surprisingly held the led for all but one minute, 24 seconds.
“The first 31/2 quarters, we did not have the defensive intensity to consistently give ourselves a chance to get a stop,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Atlanta owned the lead from 3-2 until Durant hit a pull-up jumper over DeMarre Carroll with 25.5 seconds remaining.
After Hawks forward Paul Millsap scored a driving layup three seconds later, Durant delivered with his deadliest bucket this season.
With the shot clock off, Durant retrieved the ball from Reggie Jackson just before the halfcourt marker with seven seconds remaining. Atlanta immediately sent forward Mike Scott as a secondary defender to help Carroll. But Durant saw it coming, darted right and drove toward the paint, where he was met by a third defender, Hawks forward Kyle Korver.
Undeterred, Durant pulled up, rocked back and splashed in a 12-footer that sent the home fans into frenzy.
“Coincidentally, we talked about that this morning in our shootaround,” Brooks said. “When we get the last shot of a game, teams are going to try to take the ball out of KD’s hands. And then we have to be prepared. But I thought we were ready for that to happen. KD did a great job of beating that and putting his shoulder down and going right with his pull-up. So it was a great shot.”
Durant scored the Thunder’s final seven points, and the clutch bucket that punctuated his performance simply was the result of a red-hot player slicing up similar defensive schemes that he’s seen in three of the past four games.
“This is the third team we played that’s been under that San Antonio umbrella,” Durant explained of the Spurs, Sixers and Hawks. “They did the same thing, whether it’s the first (quarter), end of the first or end of the second. They brought that double. And they were bold enough to do it in the fourth quarter.”
Durant’s mentality at that moment: just be aggressive.
“I was going to pass it,” he said. “But then I seen I was in my spot and I just had to pull up.”
And why not?
It’s been his month, and that was his moment.
“He’s just a special talent,” said Korver. “With his length, he’s able to just rise up and get his shot whenever he wants. He’s on a roll.”