x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Durant is making noise

Gregory Dole says the Oklahoma Thunder player is making his mark with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Thunder guard Kevin Durant drives against Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest of the Lakers.
Thunder guard Kevin Durant drives against Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest of the Lakers.

Two weeks ago, Kevin Durant became the youngest scoring champion in the history of the NBA by averaging 30.1 points per game. At the beginning of the season, no one in their right mind would have suggested this was possible. The scoring title was reserved for either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. On Thursday, Durant put in a dominating performance, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 101-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Several of Oklahoma's young stars played an important part in the victory, however the real story was the 21-year-old Durant's all-around game. While he finished with a respectable 29 points, 19 rebounds and four assists, Durant's defensive performance was the key to victory for the underdog Thunder. The man they now call Durantula started the game by missing his first eight shots. For the game, he shot eight of 24 from the field and one of six from beyond the three-point line. In the game's final quarter, he came alive.

Durant hit several key shots in a row and then went back on defence to guard Bryant. The legendary Lakers scorer could not find a way to make a basket against Durant. In the game's final minutes, Durant delivered a knockout blow when he blocked a shot attempt by Bryant. Soon after, Durant hit two free throws to seal the Thunder's first play-off victory. "Scoring is a big part of my game," Durant said afterwards. "It kind of overshadows other parts of my game. But if I continue to play hard on both ends, it is going to come around for me."

Bryant himself was impressed. "It was a match-up that caught me by surprise. I think he did a great job." The Thunder will probably lose this best-of-seven series, which they trail 2-1. However the victory Thursday night was a showcase of the league's future marquee player. All season Durant has toiled in the obscurity of Oklahoma, far from the media hordes in New York and Los Angeles. This most recent performance will surely cement Durant's place among the league's elite.

sports@thenational.ae