HOUSTON — As his sensational scoring streak stretched from days to weeks to mind-boggling months, Kevin Durant tried his best to maintain a team-first approach.
He tried to say the right things and play the right way.
But in his final two days on the brink of history, Durant, perhaps for the first time on this ridiculous run, finally experienced how difficult it was to do something he had made look so easy for so long.
Durant scored a team-high 28 points in the Thunder’s 111-107 loss Friday at Houston, needing nearly every second of the contest to tie Michael Jordan’s modern-era record for 40 straight games of at least 25 points.
But after the game, Durant predictably put the focus on his team’s performance rather than an individual achievement that came in defeat.
“We lost the game,” Durant said. “That’s all I’m worried about. So I don’t care. We lost.”
Despite the loss, the Thunder clinched its fourth straight Northwest Division championship thanks to Portland falling at home to Phoenix.
But this night belonged to Durant, whose streak signifies a player who has been so good for so long and possibly on the verge of wrapping up his first Most Valuable Player award.
Durant became the first player since Jordan in 1986-87 to score at least 25 points in 40 straight games. Wilt Chamberlain owns the single-season record for such a streak, scoring at least 25 in 80 straight games. Oscar Robertson also did it in 46 straight.
“Everybody keeps putting me in the same sentence as Michael Jordan, but Wilt Chamberlain did it like 180 games in a row. So it’s a long ways to get up there,” Durant said before the game. “But that’s not what I play the game for, individual records or accolades. I’m just going out there and playing my game, man, and having fun in the process. If it comes along with it, like I’ve always been saying, that’s cool. But if not then I can live with that.
“I can’t live with going out there and not playing my hardest and not having fun and just going through the motions. I got to be the same player I am every single night. Be consistent with my play in order for our team to succeed.”
Durant struggled with his shot for the second straight night and narrowly netted the necessary point total. The bucket that did it didn’t come until Durant hauled in an inbounds pass from Caron Butler and buried a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:01 left to play.
Even a road crowd erupted at the sight of the shot splashing in, perhaps acknowledging not only Durant pulling his team within 105-104 but also a small slice of history being made.
“I thought we made it a one-possession game,” Durant said, again downplaying the shot. “We had a chance to win. That’s all I was worried about.”
Durant made just seven of 19 shots in the game and went 3-for-9 in the fourth quarter.
A night earlier, Durant needed 26 shots to get 28 points in a home win over San Antonio.
But Durant said he isn’t pressing or overthinking, just missing.
“I would love to shoot 60 percent every game. But it’s not going to happen,” Durant said. “I’m always going to stay aggressive. I’m never going to let that stop me from playing my game. I’ll go back to the drawing board and keep working. That’s what I always do. It’s a matter of time before they start falling.”