OKLAHOMA CITY — NBA games in late January are supposed to be tedious. With the All-star break around the corner, many players and teams don’t put much stock into them.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is not one of them. On a night he described as emotional, the MVP candidate scored 41 points and hit the game-winning shot in a 111-109 comeback victory over the Atlanta Hawks Monday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I’m just trying to inspire the team by my play,” Durant said. “Just playing hard. Being emotional, hopefully it helps. Sometimes it may not. I got to take that risk. Take that chance. That’s how I am on the court. I’m an emotional player. I know we play a lot of games. A lot of people say January don’t mean anything. But when you are playing this game with your heart and passion like we do, sometimes you have to sit back and just enjoy it.”
With 2:34 left on the clock, Durant went to the foul line and hit 1-for-2 to close Atlanta’s (23-21) lead down to 107-105. Hawks’ forward Paul Millsap missed a jumper, and Durant made him pay with a contested layup to tie the game.
Millsap tried to post up Reggie Jackson, but Durant came from behind with the blocked shot.
After another loose ball scramble, the Hawks made a wide open 3-point attempt that was off, but Millsap got the rebound. However, a few seconds later Millsap was called for traveling and Oklahoma City (36-10) got the ball back with 34 seconds on the clock.
Coming out of a timeout, guard Derek Fisher got the ball to Durant. With Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll guarding him, Durant hit a step back jumper to put the Thunder up 109-107 with 25 seconds left.
Millsap answered right back when he drove into the lane and flipped a left handed shot over Thabo Sefolosha.