There were still 14.6 seconds remaining on the game clock when Kevin Durant made his way to the side of the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena where his entourage, if his mother Wanda Pratt and brother Tony qualify as such, was waiting for him.
Who else did you expect the Thunder’s 23-year-old wiz to embrace? This is who he is. This is what he does.
It’s why he makes sense to this city and these fans, this franchise and its master plan.
“I never want to take those moments for granted,” Durant would say later, “I know we’re just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good.”
The Thunder are in The Finals, a few years ahead of schedule, because their best player embraced his role and the moment in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
An 18-point first half deficit on their home floor to the mighty Spurs might have worried some. But not Durant, who went about his business as he always does.
His expression didn’t change when the Spurs were carving the Thunder up early and seemingly running away with Game 6, taking with them any chance Durant and his crew had of putting the finishing touches on one of the most remarkable playoff series comebacks.
His glare was the same throughout the third quarter, when a furious 32-point Thunder rally closed the gap. He nailed a 3-pointer for their first lead, 79-77, that lasted only a couple of possessions.
His disposition was the same in the fourth quarter, when the Spurs finally appeared to show their age as the young Thunder were busy coming of age.
It wasn’t until the clock froze on 14.6 seconds, with James Harden at the free-throw line and the Thunder up by six, that Durant opened his eyes, exhaled and allowed himself to suck in the moment. The 18,000-plus fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena screamed their heads off as the Thunder rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit for a stunning 107-99 win, completing the latest step of Durant’s journey that began on Draft night, 2007.
At the end of the night, Durant’s stat line read 34 points (on 9-for-17 shooting), 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. His greatness was not on trial in this series. He took care of that question a while ago, last season even, when he led the Thunder to the conference finals in just his second playoff appearance.
What no one fully understood until late Wednesday night was the lengths the three-time (and counting) scoring champ was willing to go to push his team into the championship realm, where those dreams he spoke of can be realized.
“This is the toughest game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Durant said. “I just tried to inspire my teammates with my play on both ends of the floor. And I’m just glad we got this one forOklahoma City.”
Youngsters (like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka) and championship veterans alike (like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher) followed Durant’s lead all the way to the finish.