OKLAHOMA CITY – The clock ticked down and the red hundredths-of-a-second raced by furiously. With a second left, James Johnson attempted a meaningless 50-foot heave. He missed, the horn sounded, and every Oklahoma City fan had the same thought: ‘Three quarters down, up by twenty-one – they won’t blow this lead, right?’
In a series marked by overtimes and blown leads, you couldn’t blame folks for feeling such insecurity. As it turns out, game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals was an anomaly. There was no overtime, and the Oklahoma City Thunder would not blow this lead, eventually winning 104-84. All because “The Servant” had other plans.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant was sitting pretty on top of 26 points. He’d played very, very well. But, to guarantee victory, he knew it wasn’t enough. He had to be sure.
The fourth quarter began, and while the clock ticked down, Durant moved his scoring total up, another ten points to be exact. Shot after shot fell, and by the time coach Scottie Brooks extracted his star with the game well in hand, Durant had tallied a hearty 36 points. Quite an outcome for “Mr. Unreliable.”
Yes, “Mr. Unreliable.” As you might’ve heard, the local Oklahoma City newspaper called KD that after his sub-par showings earlier in the series. The already-ridiculous label now looks even more ridiculous. Forsooth, in the face of such a stellar performance, the obvious moniker would be the reverse: “Mr. Reliable.”
If Kevin Durant were a geyser, he would be Ole’ Faithful. But, instead of steam, he spews forth points, nearly thirty-two a night. And just as Ole’ Faithful doesn’t blow his stack at exactly the same interval, neither does Durant put up 32 every game. But if you wait long enough, he is sure to erupt. He is Mr. Reliable.
Of course, everyone knows that geysers happen as a result of hydrogeological conditions related to the proximity of magma. While Durant’s game isn’t spurred on by actual magmatic activity deep below the Earth’s crust, his performances can seem positively volcanic.
From the depths of his God-given talent bursts forth a breathtaking ability to score that seems so easy and natural that it seems insane to think it would fail. But when he falters, we think his talent gone, as though the geyser has stopped, the volcano has cooled, and the magma has moved on.
But The Servant isn’t cool. Nay, the man is smoldering. Smokey the Bear said “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” but no sleuth of Grizzlies could quench Durant’s flames in game 6. The coals are stoked. The magma is churning. KD is exploding. I love it.
In the end, I find this situation drenched in irony. We’ve never known what to call Kevin Durant. Durantula? KD? The Slim Reaper? The Servant? Who would’ve thought the worst sports headline EVER would finally show us what we’ve all struggled to see? Of course Durant is Mr. Reliable. He might be late, but eventually he does his thing. He is the NBA’s Ole’ Faithful. He is on fire. I can’t wait to see it happen again. Game 7, here we come.