OKLAHOMA CITY — Utah coach Tyrone Corbin already knew Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant was a special player. He didn’t need any first hand illustrations for him to realize just how dangerous the 6-10 forward has become.
Durant gave him one anyways when he scored 31 points to lead the Thunder to a 116-96 victory over the Jazz on Sunday afternoon at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“The guy is tremendous to watch,” Corbin said. “If you are a fan of NBA basketball, he’s incredible to watch. I like the attitude that he plays with, with his talent. The guy just seems to really love to play the game.
“He’s one of the guys you would think even if he wasn’t playing in the NBA, he would be on some park somewhere playing in a basketball game and competing at a high level.”
After trailing by as much as 28 points, the Jazz (23-51) began to chip away at the Thunder’s lead. Spurred by Gordan Hayward, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, the Jazz pulled within 12 points with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
However, Durant stopped the run by draining a 25-foot 3-pointer before the buzzer to push the lead to 92-77 heading into fourth. As Durant walked back to the bench, he gave Corbin a playful stare that made Corbin laugh.
“That’s who they are,” Corbin said. “They understand the moment. They tend to make big plays at big moments. Durant is certainly one of the best in the league at doing it.”
Durant’s last-second 3-pointer seemed to right the Thunder ship. Oklahoma City reserves closed out the fourth quarter and did not allow the Jazz to make a serious run.
“It was tough,” Utah’s Marvin WIlliams said. “It almost took the wind out of your sails to fight so hard and get back to that position and to cut it to 12. But he makes an amazing shot over a defender. It was a big shot.”