For much of Friday night's game against the Houston Rockets, it looked like Kevin Durant's streak of games with at least 25 points would come to a close at 39 straight, one shy of Michael Jordan for the best such stretch in the past 50 years. While Durant was able to match M.J. with a late barrage, chances are he's not too thrilled about the circumstances.
With two 3-pointers in the final minute of play, Durant pushed himself up to and over the 25-point mark and finished with 28. Unfortunately for him, those baskets came at desperation time for the Thunder and were not enough to top the host Rockets, which came away with a 111-107 win. In a difficult performance, Durant shot just 7 of 19 from the field and turned the ball over six times. His former teammate James Harden was the star of the game, scoring 39 points on 17-of-20 shooting from the line to lift the Rockets to the win.
Regardless, Durant now finds himself in select historic company. With 25 points or more in Sunday night's game at the Phoenix Suns, Durant would eclipse Jordan's mark of 40 straight, set in 1986-87. He would then set his sights on the second-longest such streak in NBA history: 46 games for Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1963-64 as a member of the Cincinnati Royals. The all-time record, a whopping 80 straight games for Philadelphia Warriors demigod Wilt Chamberlain in the 1961-62 season, is so far away that it doesn't yet make sense to consider Durant within striking distance.
Any streak of this nature will feature its share of less-than-inspiring games, but Durant's struggles on Friday speak to just how amazing it is that he has been able to keep it going for nearly half of a full season. With co-star Russell Westbrook sitting out the second game of a back-to-back as he continues to recover from recent knee troubles, Durant faced a Rockets defense focused on stopping and double-teaming him with increasing regularity. For the most part, Durant responded by serving as a facilitator and racked up six assists to show for it. Serge Ibaka was the team's leading scorer for most of the game and finished with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and Reggie Jackson chipped in with 17 points on 7 of 14 from the field to help pick up the scoring slack.
Even when he was looking for his shot, Durant didn't look especially crisp. He was 1 of 6 from the field for most of the first half and entered the final minute of the second quarter with just four points, below his season-low scoring half of seven points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 28 (when he finished with 37). He improved in the third quarter, but Durant was not at his best when, in the fourth quarter, OKC struggled to keep up with Houston. The two late threes helped keep the Thunder close, but the fact that Durant missed a free throw and three more shots over the final 92 seconds speaks to his difficulties.
Yet the 25-point streak remains intact, which indicates just how hard it is to contain Durant. On a night when the superstar wasn't in anything near his best form, he still managed to contribute a pretty impressive number of points. We know this streak will end eventually, because nothing lasts forever, but it sure is tough to imagine the scenario in which it'll happen.
- - - - - - -