Posted by Royce Young
OKLAHOMA CITY -- As is the case most times when someone hits a game-winner at the buzzer, the real story gets overshadowed.
Yes, Kevin Durant hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the New York Knicks 101-98. Yes, it was awesome. Yes, it was the most important play of the game.
But Durant wouldn't have ever had a chance to win it for his team has the Thunder not made some serious changes at the half. The Knicks were ahead 60-53 at the break, but were ripping the Oklahoma City defense apart. The Knicks had scored 19 fast break points, a bundle of buckets in the lane and looked ready to run the Thunder out of the building at any minute.
But the halftime horn sounded and that's when Scott Brooks got the attention of his group.
“My mom would not be very happy with what I said," Brooks said after the game.
Whatever it was, it definitely worked. The Thunder held the high-powered Knicks to just 38 second half points and allowed just two in the final three minutes. Without that defense, Durant doesn't get to play hero.
Brooks talked after the game about adjustments and probably the biggest and most important one he made was going with one of the Thunder’s best lineups down the home stretch. He had Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka and Collison on the floor to defend New York’s stellar pick-and-roll game. It worked well, forcing the Knicks into long jumpers and also meant that the Thunder crushed the glass.
OKC shot just 38.6 percent in this game but outrebounded the Knicks 57-40, including 22 offensive rebounds. Serge Ibaka had a career-high 15. Nick Collison grabbed six, five offensive, Durant pulled in 12.
But again, this was about Durant's game-winner. It was only the second of his career (the first was against the Hawks his rookie year when the team was still in Seattle) and something he called a relief.
"To be honest, it feels good," Durant said. "I've missed so many of those and to finally make one, it feels good. That’s one of the all-time best feelings I’ve had in this league."
The thing is about Durant's shot, is that he's one of very few players that could've hit it. The play didn't work out how Brooks drew it up and Durant was left with a fading 3-pointer over the outstretched hand of 6-10 Danilo Gallinari. Not very many players would've even been able to get that one to the rim. But Durant swished it.
After it dropped, Durant calmly walked with little expression, soaking in the moment. He knew he had done something bad. He knew how cold-blooded it was. He was holding that swagger, but then it came out. A small grin as his teammates rushed him. Just another little reminder that at 22 years old, he's still getting used to this whole cold-blooded killer thing. But it's something we had better get used to, because this won't be the last one.