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One of the long held beliefs in basketball is that, all other things being equal, whichever team has the better player usually wins.
When the Thunder visited the Nets on Sunday night in New Jersey, that theory held true. But before we bask in the beauty of an OKC beat down, let’s have one final conversation about our former BFF and MVP.
While the “My Next Chapter” page in Thunder history is stained with would-be title tears, there has been an abundant assortment of moments since July 4, 2016 that have been satisfying for OKC fans.
A quick trip down KD Is Not Nice Lane…
- Russell Westbrook answering “Sting for who?” when asked if KD’s decision stung.
- New guy Jerami Grant putting Kevin Durant on a poster in KD’s first post-decision game against the Thunder.
- Peyton Manning’s complete evisceration of KD live on The ESPYs when he dropped this roast: “Our gymnastics team was so dominant that Kevin Durant told me that he wants to play for them next year.” Pan to KD, looking like someone just stole his backpack, and the always lovely Wanda Pratt, cracking up in her son’s face. “I gotta tell you, I don’t think you’d start for that team. Russell Westbrook, what do you think?” Pan to Russ, covering his poker face but revealing just enough to see our king was holding a Joker.
- Russ’s futile but still completely epic “I’m comin’” that lit a fire in Loud City and made every Thunder fan feel like we were witnessing the modern day David holding up his Oklahoma shaped slingshot against the Goliath State Warriors.
- Mild mannered Andre Roberson squaring off against KD in OKC. And by squaring off, I mean weirdly rubbing heads in a very angry way.
- Durant and Draymond’s countless quarrels and eventual break up. The Daily Thunder Dundie winner for favorite couple split since Pam and Roy.
- Every time KD looked opened up his Twitter account.
The first Thunder vs. Kevin Durant post-Warriors game added a few more memorable moments to the list.
There was the time that Darius Bazley blocked a KD jumper from behind. There was also the time that Darius Bazley blocked a KD 3, the refs called it a foul, Baze got big mad, Mark Daigneault knew Darius swatted Slim Reaper’s junk, and the refs agreed. Darius proceeded to out jump the man 4 inches but also 12 years his senior for the tip ball.
But those Darius doozies were mere memorable morsels when compared to what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had in store for Thunder fans.
Shai had KD on size 18 skates all night. Early in the game, he juked Durant out of his KD11’s on an up and under, pump fake to scoop layup. Later, he broke KD down off the dribble, beat him to the rim, drew a double team and dumped the ball off to Isaiah Roby for an easy dunk.
By the end of the night, SGA had 31 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 big win in a mano a mano matchup.
Shai was a 17 year old in Canada when KD decided to leave OKC for California. Four and a half years later, the kid sonned him.
It was a glimpse of the Ghost of Thunder Past vs the Ghost of Thunder Future. While KD very well may win another MVP or another title because he’s still a top 5 player in the league when healthy, the reality is that OKC’s first era face of the franchise is 32 years old, coming off a big injury, and hitched his wagon to an unpredictable superstar in Kyrie Irving. More than likely, Durant’s best days are in the rear view.
Meanwhile, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took on the Durantula and spun one of the all-time best games of his career. The past three games, SGA has averaged 25.7 points, 7.7 assists, 7 rebounds and 2.3 steals in three road wins. The second era face of the franchise is 22 years old, coming off his best stretch of games and has hitched his covered wagon to a sustainable superstar executive in Sam Presti. Without a doubt, SGA’s best days are still ahead.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t a better player than Kevin Durant at the moment. That day will come. But SGA has reached the point that he can outplay KD on any given Sunday.
And on this Sunday, the team with the best player won.
- The tanking Thunder beat KD and the contending Nets 129-116. The tanking Thunder win their third straight game. The tanking Thunder are now 5-4. KD and the contending Nets are now 5-6.
- The Thunder have won three straight games and four out of five. They are tied for the 5 seed in the West.
- Shai’s 1st quarter: 14 points on 5-6 shooting including 2-2 from 3. It’s the third straight game SGA had a double digit quarter.
- Hamidou Diallo has gone from “trade him or cut him” to “let’s start the 6th Man of the Year campaign.”
- Three straight games that the Thunder bench, supposed to be the worst in the league, has led a big comeback.
- The streak continues: Lu Dort has hit a 3 in every game this season.
- Al Horford showed KD what coulda been in 2017. Big Al had his best game in a Thunder jersey with 22 points on 9-17 shooting.
- KD rode Horford harder on a third quarter layup than he did Steph Curry’s coattails.
- Isaiah Roby hit big back to back 3s. OKC’s 22 year old third string center had a 19 point game against the Magic and had 13 points against the Nets.
- Hami has back to back 23 and 25 point games. This doesn’t feel like a fluke anymore.
- KD and Joe Harris knocked SGA down to the ground HARD on a drive to the rim.
- If KD would’ve hurt Shai there, Thunder fans would’ve really started not liking the guy very much.
- Russ is gone. KD is no longer with the Warriors. None of his teammates remain in OKC. The Thunder are rebuilding. And OKC beating Kevin Durant is still so satisfying.
- Up next: a very winnable game (OH NO!) at home vs the Spurs.