Kevin Durant was having the game of his life. The wrong way.
Couldn’t make a shot. Couldn’t find a flow. Couldn’t even help his squad all that much. In fact, the Thunder fell apart for the last time when Durant re-entered the game with 8:36 left.
Then as some faithless fans hit the Chesapeake Arena aisles and Samsungs all over America were clicked off, Durant’s light came on. It usually does.
Durant indeed had the game of his life. The good way. Ten points in 186 seconds. Two massive 3-pointers that supplied CPR to the Thunder season. A fast-break layup that somehow, some way cut the Clipper lead to two with 17 seconds left.
And you know how it ended. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles. The Thunder beat the Clippers 105-104 in a game OKC had no business winning. Not when trailing by 13 points with four minutes left. Not when trailing by seven points with 46 seconds left. Not when the Durantula was an ant for most of the biggest game of the Thunder season.
“I never seen a game like this,” Durant said. “That just shows we just keep on, you can never keep us down. No matter what happens, we’re going to lay it on the line. We fought through it all. We persevered through it all. So much happened in the game, but we just stuck together as a team.”
Durant had made just three of 17 shots going into those final four minutes, and Chris Paul, the Clippers’ defensive whiz on Durant in Game 4, was not even needed to be a pest. Durant got shots. They just didn’t fall. His only buckets were a first-quarter drive, a fast-break 3-pointer in the second quarter and a muscle drive to open the third quarter. Durant got to the foul line with regularity, else this would have been as disastrous a game as he’s had since Seattle days.
But Durant is the NBA most valuable player for a reason. He almost always rises to the occasion. And this was an occasion. Swing game of a series tied 2-2. The difference between having to win in Los Angeles on Thursday night just to extend the season, or having the luxury of a mulligan with an if-necessary Game 7 back home.
Durant in those final four minutes never did find his mid-range shot. He swished a deep 3-pointer with 3:19 left to make it 101-93, then sank two foul shots off a drive to make it 101-95.
In keeping with the frustration of the day, Durant then missed two shots on one possession, and the Thunder looked finished, especially after Paul’s jumper made it 104-97 with 49 seconds left. But after a timeout, Durant nailed another 3-pointer, and when Jamal Crawford missed for the Clippers, the Thunder hurried the ball to Durant for a fast-break layup. It was 104-102 with 14 seconds left and set the stage for Russell Westbrook’s steal and game-winning foul shots.
Durant called it the wildest game of his career.
“Definitely frustrating,” Durant said. “I was missing some shots I felt good about. But that’s how the game goes sometimes. I just tried to stick with it and was able to hit some shots. Russ carried us the whole game.”
Durant took umbrage with Clipper coach Doc Rivers’ outrage over a replay review that kept the ball in Thunder possession with 11 seconds left. Durant preferred to talk about “the six plays before … that we made. We fought so hard, we went through so much adversity to come out on top. Sometimes that’s how the game goes.
“We just stayed together. We were down so much. It was a rollercoaster game. There was so much going on. We just stayed together and kept fighting. You’ve seen it with the Clippers. That’s what they did to us in Game 4.”
Indeed, the Clippers rallied from 16 down with nine minutes left to the beat the Thunder. But OKC trumped that comeback with a 13-point rally in the final four minutes. And now the Thunder has to win just once in the next two games to put the Clippers in the past.
Don’t bet on Durant going 3-of-17 again. But if he does, bet on Durant coming back.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.