Durant, McGary Lead Thunder Past Nuggets
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant had one of those games last night in Denver and Thunder rookie Mitch McGary came through again with another double-double as the Thunder rolled past the Nuggets 124-114.
It was a night when it seemed like everything Durant threw up splashed through the nets inside Denver's Pepsi Center.
KD finished with 40 points on 13-for-19 shooting and tied his career-high by nailing seven 3-pointers.
"My teammates were looking for me. I just tried to finish," said Durant, who had his 43rd career 40-point game, the most by any player since he entered the NBA in 2007-08. "I shot some bad shots, but luckily they went in. My teammates kept feeding me. They gave me energy. I looked to the bench, the guys were up cheering for me. That pushed me over the top a little bit."
The Nuggets tried to slow down Durant with double teams and by picking him up as soon as he got near the 3-point line, but it didn't do much good.
"It was tough," Ty Lawson said. "When he gets hot like that, we've got to put two players on him. He's two, three steps back from the 3-point line. You've got to live with that. Those were tough shots he was hitting."
Point guard Russell Westbrook, who was named the Western Conference Player-of-the-Week for his triple-double, 45 and 48 point performances last week, added 26 points and nine assists. Russ has now played enough games so that his stats count among the league leaders. He's third in scoring (25.9) and leads the NBA in steals per game (2.2).
McGary has had a debut like no other in the Oklahoma City-era of the Thunder franchise. In his first two meaningful games (McGary played some garbage minutes on two earlier games) he has scored a combined 32 points while pulling down 20 rebounds.
He had a 19-point, 10-rebound game on Sunday and followed that up with 17 points and 10 rebounds last night in Denver. It's the earliest a Thunder rookie has ever scored a double-double and the first time a Thunder rookie has registered consecutive double-doubles in the first five games of his career.
McGary has missed most of the season with a couple of injuries. He should a lot of potential during Summer League play and during training camp but exactly what the Thunder had in McGary has been mostly unknown until now.
McGary has gotten healthy at exactly the right time for the Thunder with center Steven Adams out for at least three weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone at the back of his right hand. Adams will be re-evaluated in three weeks and will go from there. So McGary will get a lot of time on the floor filling in.
He also got a break with these last two opponents. The Clippers on Sunday were without Blake Griffin and the Nuggets, who've now lost six straight and 13 of their last 14, just didn't seem interested.
That changes Wednesday night when the rough and tumble Memphis Grizzlies come to town for a high-stakes game to end both team's pre All-Star Game schedule.
One thing about McGary's game that won't change no matter who the opponent, is his energy level. His motor runs at high speed all the time. Effort and energy can make up for a lot of other things and plus there's no question McGary is talented and quite capable on both ends of the floor.
Those traits are what attracted the Thunder to McGary in the first place even though he was coming off a season at Michigan that saw him miss most of it with a back injury and a suspension.
If McGary can just hold his own, much less have a game approaching what he's done in these last two against the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, then the Thunder will have something that quite possibly even they weren't expecting.