Durant leads Thunder with 36 points in rout of Pacers
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kobe Bryant made his season debut Sunday night in Los Angeles, which is a city always ready for a show, so that pushed one of the best matchups in the league this year to full-on “Little Brother” treatment.
Two teams like Indiana and Oklahoma City, even though they had a combined total of six losses coming in, just don’t move the meter like Kobe in Hollywood.
Don’t feel slighted though, Thunder fans.
Even if the world wasn’t watching Sunday, Oklahoma City’s stars matched anything else the NBA has.
The Thunder beat Indiana 118-94 in what looked like a Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook fashion expo.
Couldn’t have looked better.
Couldn’t have been more impressive.
The only thing that was missing was a way bigger stage.
“If we play like that, there aren’t too many teams that can beat us,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of doing what we do best.”
On a good night, and Sunday was one of those, what Oklahoma City does best is rival any duo in basketball. As good As LeBron and Dwyane Wade. As good as Golden State’s guards or San Antonio’s savvy. And way better than anything the Eastern Conference’s best team – Indiana, now at 18-3 – could showcase.
“I think they were a step quicker,” Pacer coach Frank Vogel said. “You have to give them credit.”
Give ’em credit? Give ’em the title if they play like this.
Durant scored 36 points, had 10 rebounds, five assists and was 14-of-23 shooting. Westbrook was involved from the beginning. He had 26 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and made 11-of-17 shots. That’s a pretty good look.
“We haven’t found a way to make it difficult for them,” Indiana’s David West said. “Durant is a matchup problem and he got going too early and it was too easy. He took the game over.”
As for Westbrook?
“As good as I’ve ever seen him,” Vogel said.
This is the kind of performance that leads to some small, but understandable conclusion jumping: If Durant can do that and Westbrook can do that, the Thunder can do whatever they want.
It doesn’t seem so far out of reach to think big thoughts when Oklahoma City can scorch the league’s best defense, getting 28 points in the first quarter and then 34 more in the third.
Sure, it came as the Pacers were finishing up a five-game, Western Conference death march that included stops in San Antonio, Portland and at the Clippers. Indiana went 3-2 on the trip and undoubtedly the Thunder caught a break by catching the Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back. But there was something special about Sunday.
Durant and Westbrook were so good and so sharp, it didn’t look like it would have mattered if the Pacers had spent the past two weeks resting.
“We strive for consistency and I think we’ve been pretty good with that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Consistency has helped the Thunder to a 15-4 record, complemented by Kendrick Perkins’ best game of the season (six points, seven rebounds, two blocks, while defending Roy Hibbert) and a bench led by Reggie Jackson’s 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Consistency wins you games in Detroit or at Charlotte or home against the Mavericks in December and January.
But it’s the explosive and dominant Westbrook and Durant who are going to determine if Oklahoma City plays for the title. They showed up Sunday.
“Well, they’ve been good for a lot of years,” Brooks said.
Good is acceptable. But it doesn’t win titles. Sunday, Durant and Westbrook looked like they could win a title.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK