HOUSTON — Kevin Durant felt strange playing without injured All-Star Russell Westbrook for the first time in Game 3 against the Houston Rockets.
He did, however, enjoy handling the ball more in the point guard’s absence.
Durant’s 41 points helped the Thunder to the win on Saturday night. A victory on Monday would complete the four-game sweep and send them to the second round of the playoffs.
He broke into a huge grin when asked how it felt to run the offense without Westbrook, who had season-ending knee surgery Saturday.
“I tell you, it’s fun,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing street ball again, just having the ball in my hands all the time and initiating the offense.”
The Rockets, of course, didn’t share Durant’s delight in having the ball more. Durant scored 27 points before halftime on Saturday as Oklahoma City built a huge lead.
Houston coach Kevin McHale alternated defenders Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia to try to slow him down, but knows they’ll have to do better if they expect to win on Monday.
“It’s more difficult,” McHale said of dealing with Durant with Westbrook out. “But when he does give it up you’ve got to deny him and try to keep him from getting it. I thought (Garcia) did a better job of that. Chandler’s got to do a better job of that. When he does finally give it up — thank goodness — letting him get it right back is not a very good option for us.”
Though Durant tied a career high for points in the playoffs on Saturday night, he wasn’t satisfied with his work. He had four turnovers in that game, which was his high in this postseason.
“I’ve got to make better decisions,” he said. “I turned the ball over a few times and I think I should have made stronger passes. But it’s a learning process so I’ve got to continue to keep working at it.”