After three days of sweet-talking New Yorkers, Kevin Durant got nasty Tuesday night and dropped a season-high 44 points on the Knicks to lead the Thunder to a 128-122 overtime win at Madison Square Garden.
Durant clearly demonstrated why he is going to be the most coveted free agent in the league this summer, hitting three big baskets in the final 2:59 of regulation, including the 13-footer that sent it into overtime. Durant, who also had 14 rebounds, scored seven points in OT.
“I’m just trying to play great basketball and efficient basketball,” he said. “It was pretty cool tonight. I’m not really concerned with how many points I’ve scored.”
The performance came after three days of Durant talking about how much he loves New York and the Knicks as his team got to town before the blizzard Saturday in order to play in Brooklyn on Sunday. Although Durant seems most likely to stay in Oklahoma City, head to the post-Kobe Bryant Lakers or head home to the Washington Wizards, there’s a case to be made for the Knicks. It’s clear there are a lot of things he likes about the Knicks.
Earlier in the day, at shootaround, Durant coyly avoided answering questions about free agency but made it clear he loves both New York and the Knicks. He recalled a night during the 2011 lockout when he went to Harlem’s Rucker Park and scored 66 points.
“One of the most memorable times in my life was coming here and playing outside and just getting the pure love of the game up here. And I remember,” Durant said. “I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life and tell my kids about that when I’m older. That’s something I’ll always remember.”
Durant’s love of playing basketball also extends to the indoors.
“Playing in the Garden, every movie you watch, they had a scene where you’re playing basketball in the Garden,’’ he said. “Everything reverts back to being in the Garden, whether it’s musicians, basketball players, whatever. So to play here is just a blessing.”
Durant is a friend of Carmelo Anthony’s and a former teammate of Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s. Anthony did not play Tuesday night because of a sore knee. Durant also appears to be a big fan of Kristaps Porzingis. On Monday, Durant called Porzingis a “unicorn” because of the 7-3 rookie’s ability to knock down outside shots. On Tuesday morning, he continued to wax eloquently about Porzingis, saying he started following him online in 2014 and sent Fisher a congratulatory text last summer after the Knicks drafted the Latvian.
“I’m always on the draft websites seeing who’s coming in next,” Durant said. “And I happened to see his name [in 2014] when he pulled out of the draft. I know a lot of guys in college and overseas looking to make the jump. I kind of watch YouTube. I’ve seen some of his clips, seen how skilled he was, big he was, how fluid he was. Some guys can shoot the ball at his height, but he’s a fluid shooter.”
Although it’s hard to imagine any team not wanting Durant, the Knicks already have two big scorers in Anthony and Porzingis and have greater need at other positions, such as point guard.