NBA: Durant steals the show

Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant playing against the Miami Heat on Dec 3.
Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant playing against the Miami Heat on Dec 3. PHOTO: AFP

Oklahoma City star racks up triple-double, including 25pts, as Thunder down Hawks

OKLAHOMA CITY • Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant is best known for his scoring ability, and he currently ranks fourth in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in that category.

But he showcased his vision and passing when the Thunder hosted the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.

Instead of trying to light up the Hawks with a barrage of baskets, the four-time scoring champion racked up a rare triple-double to lead the Thunder to a 107-94 victory at the Chesapeake Arena.

Durant scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go along with 10 assists and 12 rebounds.

"I just try to play the game and make it simple for myself," he said after his seventh career triple-double.

"I knew last time they expected me to be aggressive and score every time I got the ball.

"So I just tried to switch the game up. Get Serge (Ibaka) open. Get Russell (Westbrook) shots. Get Steven (Adams) shots. I think it's contagious when your top guys do that. Russ did a great job of setting the tone."

Ibaka had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Westbrook finished with 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for Oklahoma City (14-8).

It was the first time Westbrook and Durant both had at least 20 points and 10 assists apiece.

Guard Kent Bazemore came off the Atlanta bench to score 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Guard Jeff Teague scored 18 points for the Hawks (14-10), but forward Paul Millsap was held to seven points and eight rebounds.

The Hawks' defensive philosophy to start the game seemed focused on preventing Westbrook or Durant getting in easy shots. Each time either touched the ball, Atlanta tried to force a pass.

It was Ibaka who took advantage of the open shots first. He posted 11 points in the first nine minutes.

Bazemore entered and kept the Hawks in the contest by shooting 6-for-6 in the first half for 18 points, but Atlanta trailed 49-60 at half-time.

Defence and hot shooting allowed the Hawks to claw their way back into the game. They trailed 75-76 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Thunder ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 83-75 going into the fourth.

One of the biggest changes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made in recent games is to stagger the minutes of Westbrook and Durant to make sure at least one of them is on the court at all times. That has allowed Oklahoma City to end quarters in a strong fashion.

"It's another step in the right direction," Donovan said. "I thought our guys did some really good things."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Durant steals the show'. Print Edition | Subscribe