Here’s a mission, if you decide to accept it. Find a playoff game when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have played better collectively than what we saw Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder routed the Spurs 105-92 – OKC led by 27 midway through the third quarter. Durant was fantastic. Westbrook was better.
Durant made 11 of 22 shots and had 31 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Westbrook made 12 of 24 shots, 14 of 14 foul shots, and had 40 points, five rebounds, 10 assists and five steals.
That’s a combined 23 of 46 shooting for 71 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists and eight steals.
“It’s just fun to watch,” Durant said of Westbrook. “You know, for a guy to just go out there … you know how much he wants to win and just to lay it all out there and play extremely hard every possession, I think that’s more fun than seeing him score 40 points. “Just his focus on every possession on the defensive end and his poise on the offensive end, I think that’s what’s fun to watch.”
Said Westbrook, “I just think myself and Kevin, obviously we want to win, and we want to get better. Tonight we came out with a defensive mindset. I thought we did a great job of helping each other out defensively, and that led to us getting out in transition, getting open looks, and it looked easy for both of us.”
OK, so was it the best collective playoff game ever for the Thunder superstars? They have had better statistical games in the regular season, but playoff performances are magnified. Playoff performances count for much more than regular season.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Durant said. “We’ve played so many games together. But we were just so focused on bringing that energy for our teammates. We’re the leaders, we set the tone, and they follow us. Russell does a great job every single game of just playing with that fire and that force, and I just try to do the same things and have our teammates follow behind us. I don’t know about the best game we’ve ever played. I think we have another level we can go to.”
Statistically, this one ranked high in the Durant/Westbrook collection. Only twice previously have Durant and Westbrook combined to score more points in a playoff game than Tuesday night. Only once previously have Durant and Westbrook combined for more than 15 assists while scoring at least 60 points.
Durant and Westbrook have played 62 playoff games together. They have combined for at least 60 points in 16 of those games. That’s quite the feat itself.
Here’s how I would rank those 16, in terms of their collective brilliance:
1. Spurs 2014 Game 4: Yep, this one ranks No. 1. Mostly because of the stakes. This was must-win, and Westbrook and Durant brought their A games from the get-go. Durant’s shot-making, which has wavered during the playoffs, was superb. Westbrook was all over the court, defensively and offensively. Heck, if they played like this, the Thunder might beat the Spurs without Serge Ibaka. Of course, Ibaka’s presence is one reason Durant and Westbrook can play like this.
2. Heat 2012 Game 1: 63 points, 22-of-44 shooting, 16 rebounds, 15 assists, one steal. The only Finals win in Thunder history. Durant and Westbrook were superb. Durant had 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting, being dogged by LeBron James and Shane Battier. Westbrook had 11 assists.
3. Grizzlies 2014 Game 7: 60 points, 22-of-34, 18 rebounds, 14 assists, two steals. Not a monster scoring game (Durant 33, Westbrook 27), but terribly efficient, with lots of box-score stuffing. In a huge game.
4. Nuggets 2011 Game 1: 72 points, 25-of-45 shooting, 15 rebounds, nine assists, two steals. The numbers are better than Tuesday night’s. But the stakes weren’t nearly as high.
5. Lakers 2012 Game 4: 68 points, 25-of-44 shooting, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals. This was the Durant dead-eye game, shooting over Metta World Chaos from the top of the key in the final 30 seconds to seal the game. A big game. The Lakers could have tied the series 2-2.
6. Heat 2012 Game 4: 71 points, 29-of-51 shooting, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals. The Westbrook Game, when he scored 43 points. Miami couldn’t guard Westbrook that night. But Westbrook wasn’t the destructive force he was Tuesday night.
7. Grizzlies 2011 Game 4: 75 points, 24-of-53 shooting, 18 rebounds, six assists, seven steals. This was the famed triple overtime game in which the Thunder tied the series 2-2. More points, but because of the extra time, and not great efficiency, this one doesn’t rank at the top.
8. Clippers 2014 Game 2: 63 points, 23-of-44 shooting, 22 rebounds, 19 assists, five steals. The most assists Westbrook and Durant have combined for in a playoff game in which they also combined for at least 60 points.
9. Grizzlies 2014 Game 6: 61 points, 20-of-44 shooting, 19 rebounds, seven assists, four steals. This was the must-win “Mr. Unreliable” Game. For all the talk about how Durant struggled in the series, four of the 16 games on this list from the Memphis 2014 series.
10. Clippers 2014 Game 4: 67 points, 22-of-46 shooting, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals. An excellent performance by the Thunder stars was overshadowed by LA’s big comeback.
11. Grizzlies 2011 Game 1: 62 points, 20-of-44 shooting, 19 rebounds, nine assists, two steals. A solid game, but a dud performance by the Thunder. This was the game Memphis won easily and took command of the series until the triple overtime verdict in Game 4.
12. Nuggets 2011 Game 4: 61 points, 20-of-48 shooting, 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals. Wow. That Denver series is hard to remember.
13. Grizzlies 2014 Game 2: 65 points, 23-of-56 shooting, 22 rebounds, five assists, one steal. The overtime game and the great OKC comeback, with Durant’s four-point play from sitting on the floor. But not an overall great game by the duo.
14. Grizzlies 2014 Game 3: 60 points, 19-of-53 shooting, 22 rebounds, five assists, three steals. Just because it’s on this list doesn’t mean the game wasn’t a grinder.
15. Clippers 2014 Game 5: 65 points, 17-of-45 shooting, 15 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals. The great Thunder comeback in the final minute. But the Clips made life miserable on Durant, especially, that night – 3-of-17 shooting before his late heroics.
16. Mavericks 2011 Game 1: 60 points, 13-of-33 shooting, 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals. The Dirk Nowitzki game, when the Dallas star scored 48 points and missed only three shots. Westbrook made only three shots – 3-of-15.