John Klein: Hot-shooting Durant leads surging Thunder
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 7:16 AM
For more OKC Thunder stories.
Related story: John Klein: Hot-shooting Durant leads surging Thunder.
OKLAHOMA CITY - It is no mystery to Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks why Kevin Durant seems to be getting better.
Durant has been shooting at remarkable levels in recent weeks and has been the most obvious reason for Oklahoma City's continued improvement near the top of the NBA.
"It is like Groundhog Day," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday. "He's out there practicing like that every day."
Russell Westbrook led the way with 32 points, but Durant was steady as always with 20 points on Wednesday night when the Thunder took out Denver, 117-97, at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
As we approach the mid-point of the NBA season, almost every league power ranking has the Thunder on top.
Oklahoma City has the league's best offense, averaging 105.4 points per game and the league's most dangerous weapon in Durant.
Durant has been the NBA's top scorer three straight years and is near the top again at 28.7.
He's been even better during January, shooting better than 56 percent at 29.5 points per game.
Durant said he's just trying to fit in with his team. No big deal. Just a superstar playing at peak form.
"I wouldn't say I'm in a zone," Durant said. "I'm just having fun. The main thing I tell myself before every game is to go out there and have fun.
"I just want to stay in the flow of the game, and I've been able to do that."
Life without James Harden, the NBA's sixth man of the year who was traded just before the season, has been just fine for the Thunder.
After a brief period of adjustment, Oklahoma City seems to be back on course toward the top of the NBA. The Thunder is 31-8, the best record in the NBA. It is 22-4 since the day after Thanksgiving.
The victory over Denver was OKC's fifth straight and snapped Denver's six-game winning streak.
Yes, the Thunder has a nice team.
More importantly, the Thunder has Durant, who is once again making a good case for the best player on Earth.
"He's shooting at a level only a few guys in the history of the league have shot at," Brooks said.
Durant just seems to be getting better and more accurate as the season progresses.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to keep it up," Durant said. "There are a lot of great defensive players out there."
As a result, the Thunder is soaring.
When your best player is playing his best, that is the biggest factor for any team.
Durant was the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13. The Thunder went 3-1 last week, and Durant had 26 or more points in all four games. That included a season-high 42 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 22. He averaged 32.5 in those four games.
He started this week by scoring 41 in a victory at Phoenix. Durant combined with Russell Westbrook (36) to score 77 in the road victory over the Suns.
The Thunder is on a roll in the midst of a tough stretch. Denver was the only home game during a 21-day stretch.
"We knew coming into the month that most of it was going to be on the road," said Durant. "So, it was important to take care of home."
Wednesday night's date in OKC is the only home game sandwiched between a three-game and six-game West Coast swing.
The Thunder won't play in Oklahoma City again until Jan. 31 against Memphis.
It opens the six-game swing in Dallas on Friday followed by Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers.
"You really do have to focus on one team at a time in the Western Conference," said Brooks. "You can't look at the schedule as a whole.
"That Western Conference can overwhelm you. So, our guys have done a good job of concentrating on it day-by-day."
As such, Oklahoma City has to adjust on the run. That's something the Thunder has been great at in recent weeks.
"It's personnel," Durant said. "We can play small. We can speed it up and we can play grind it out basketball because we have some pretty good bigs.
"It's good to have so many different types of players on this team. Coach is doing the best job of trying to put the best lineup out on the floor."
Being versatile is a big reason for Oklahoma City's success.
But, there's no doubt that Durant is the primary reason. As he continues to soar, so will OKC.
Original Print Headline: Hot-shooting Durant leads surging Thunder
Kevin Durant has shot under 50 percent from the floor just once this month. A look at his January:
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant shoots during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore. DON RYAN/AP Photo