Saturday, January 18
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant drained three 3-pointers in 75 seconds. And when the crowd wanted even more, the NBA's leading scorer responded.
Durant poured in a career-high 54 points in an incredibly efficient performance, helping the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Golden State Warriors 127-121 on Friday night.
The 6-foot-9 forward had 11 points during one two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, powering the Thunder to a 17-point lead. With the crowd of 18,203 chanting "MVP! MVP!" he made two foul shots with 2:45 remaining to establish a new career-best scoring total.
"When you've got it going, I look at the bench and see how my teammates are reacting, and that just gives me an extra push," Durant said. "Then, I hear the fans."
Durant made 19 of 28 field goals and 11 of 13 free throws in his third straight game with at least 36 points.
"As a leader, my main objective is to serve my teammates, help them out," he said. "Some nights, I've got to put it up, I've got to score. Some nights, I've got to do other things. Tonight, they found me and I was able to hit a few shots. I just tried to do as best as I can to lead the team and lead us to victory."
It was the kind of performance that gets fans fired up about postseason awards in mid-January.
"It's premature," Durant said. "It's way too early in the season. I try not to think about that type of stuff. Of course, as a player, you'd love to win an MVP award, but I can't take my focus off the team. Every day, I've just got to keep chipping away, keep enjoying the process, and we'll see what happens."
Serge Ibaka had 21 points and eight rebounds, Reggie Jackson scored 14 points and Kendrick Perkins added 12 rebounds for the Thunder (30-10), who won for the third time in four games. Oklahoma City shot 58 percent from the field and scored a season-high point total.
Stephen Curry had 37 points and 11 assists, and Klay Thompson added 26 points for the Warriors (25-16), who shot 52 percent but simply couldn't match up with Durant.
"We battled him for the most part, and he got hot in the fourth and knocked down some big shots for them," Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. "There's a reason why he's a perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer, and possibly MVP this year."
Golden State coach Mark Jackson was disappointed with his team's defense.
"We're a good enough defensive team to give a little better effort, fight a little bit harder," Jackson said.
Oklahoma City led 39-32 at the end of the first quarter after shooting 78.3 percent from the field. It had a 71-65 advantage at the break after a season high for points in a half for the Thunder.
Curry had 22 points and eight assists in the first half and Thompson scored 21 points before the break. The Warriors made 10 of 16 3-pointers in the first half to stay in the game.
Andre Iguodala scored his first points of the game on a steal and dunk that cut Oklahoma City's lead to 82-79 midway through the third, but the Thunder steadily pulled away the rest of the period. A mid-range jumper by Durant pushed Oklahoma City's advantage to 96-86, and the Thunder led 101-91 heading into the final quarter.
Durant then closed by scoring 15 points in the fourth.
"You let a guy like KD, he leads the league in scoring, start off the game as hot as he did . It was tough to start off the game like that and then try to get stops against a dynamic scorer like that, especially when he's hitting everything," Curry said.
Durant gave his teammates credit.
"It's the small things that go into a game to help us win, and everybody did them tonight," he said.
NOTES: The previous two meetings between the Thunder and Warriors were decided by last-second shots. In the first game on Nov. 14, Iguodala hit a fallaway game-winning jumper for Golden State. In the second game, on Nov. 29, Russell Westbrook hit the game-winner in overtime. ... Golden State G Jordan Crawford played for the first time since being acquired from Boston in a three-team trade. He finished with eight points in 15 minutes. ... Former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture attended the game.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.