Three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant is determined to become known as more than a one-dimensional player.
He took a big step in that direction Sunday night.
Durant notched his first career triple-double with 25 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Golden State Warriors 119-109.
”I really didn’t care, to be honest. If it came, then that’s cool. If it didn’t, then just keep playing,” Durant said. ”It feels good to get one. Now, I guess I’ve got a little monkey off my back. I can just go out there and play.”
Durant has endured some growing pains this season trying to improve his floor game, with a bump in his assist numbers coinciding with an increase in his turnovers, too. He came in averaging four turnovers per game, the fourth-worst in the league.
But after ending up with more turnovers than assists in each of his first five NBA seasons, Durant is starting to reverse that trend this season. He’s also grabbing about two more rebounds per game than any other time in his career.
”There’s going to be nights where I have to score 30. There’s going to be nights where I have to have seven or eight assists,” Durant said. ”So, I’m just trying to be an all-around player and just continue to help my team win.”
Durant turned it over just twice in this one and pumped his right fist after he set up Kevin Martin’s 3-pointer with 4:57 to play for his 10th assist. The play also helped the Thunder hold on after Golden State cut a 21-point deficit to seven in the fourth quarter.
Russell Westbrook scored 30 points and Martin had 23 off the bench as Oklahoma City had a season-high 31 assists for the second straight game and a season high in points. Durant, Westbrook and Martin also combined for 22 assists.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points, and David Lee chipped in 19 points and 10 rebounds.
”Durant’s a pretty good passer to begin with and we decided we were going to load up a lot on him and Russell when they got the ball and make other guys beat us,” Lee said. ”The problem with loading up sometimes on him is that he’s 6-11 and can see over it and make passes.
”I always considered him a pretty unselfish player, considering the amount of talent he has to score the basketball. I don’t think that you would call him a selfish scorer by any means.”
It looked for a while as though Durant might be stuck on nine assists, matching his previous career best from a double-overtime game against Denver during his rookie season in Seattle.
Durant and Westbrook teamed up to score eight straight points late in the third quarter, with Westbrook’s 3-pointer from the top of the key extending Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-67. Durant had a chance to pick up his 10th assist before the end of the third period, but instead kept the ball on a fast break and wound up with a three-point play that put the Thunder ahead 94-73.
He started the fourth quarter on the bench, but got a chance to come back in when Oklahoma City’s reserves let the lead start slipping away.
Coach Scott Brooks put his All-Stars back in with 8:18 left, after Curry’s 3-pointer drew Golden State to 101-88. Nick Collison used a nifty touch pass off an offensive rebound to set up Serge Ibaka’s layup, and Durant assisted on Martin’s 3 on the next trip as Oklahoma City stemmed the tide.
”Some guys can just pass, some guys can just shoot, some guys can just rebound. Obviously, with Kevin, he can do many things on the floor and we always have to challenge him because we don’t know how good he will end up being,” Brooks said.
Brooks said he doesn’t want Durant to become a passer, but rather a play-maker.
”Every year for the next 100 years, he’s going to be an MVP-type caliber player, and this is what MVP players do,” Brooks said. ”They make your team better, you win games and you do everything. You fill the stat sheet.
”You don’t want to be a guy that just scores 35 and the team doesn’t have success.”
Carl Landry had 14 points and Jarrett Jack scored 12 for Golden State, which lost despite shooting 52 percent from the field. Warriors reserve Richard Jefferson pulled himself out of the game late in the first quarter after straining his right calf, and he did not return.
The Warriors wiped away an early seven-point deficit to go up 32-31 in the second quarter but Eric Maynor answered with a 3-pointer to start a 19-6 response that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.
”They’re the reigning Western Conference champions playing at home, playing well. You want to compete and find a way to beat them and in the end they shoot the ball 13-for-20 from 3. You give up 119 points,” Curry said. ”That’s not going to cut it.”
Notes: Asked before the game how he would have defended Westbrook during his playing days, Warriors coach Mark Jackson responded: ”Chapel first, and then stay late when all the guys leave to get some extra prayer in.” … Oklahoma City had held its opponents below 44 percent shooting in each of its first seven wins this season. … Golden State had also held seven opponents below 44 percent this season, tying Chicago and Oklahoma City for the NBA lead.