Kevin Durant is back after skipping six games due to a hamstring injury and it is already very obvious that he is the cornerstone of this Oklahoma City Thunder team. We love Russell Westbrook as much as anyone else, but it is quite clear that the OKC are a mediocre team when KD is out. If you need proof, take a look at last season or the previous 6 games where they went 3-3 with Durant out.
Last night, the OKC were in Salt Lake City, playing the Utah Jazz, a young team that played great after the All-Star break last year and that is looking to get in the playoff picture this season. Last night, Durant and co. made them look far from it. Not even the traditionally tough crowd in the newly renamed Vivint Smart Home Arena (ex-Energy Solutions Arena, ex-Legendary Delta Center from Stockton and Malone days) could spoil Durant’s return to court.
Durant scored 27 off of just thirteen field goal attempts, proving once again that he is among the most efficient scorers in the league. He also had 6 rebounds and 4 steals to go with his 27 points. More than anything else, he once again exhibited an incredible lightness of scoring, despite the fact that the Jazz defense is one of the best in the league.
Durant was perfectly complemented by Russell Westbrook who scored 20 points and also had 9 assists and 7 rebounds, for another near triple-double. As far as the Jazz are concerned, they played the worst game of the season, scoring only 89 while allowing a huge (for them) 111 points.
The Jazz struggled to score, with only Gordon Hayward living up to his name with 19 points. Rudy Gobert, Utah’s rim protector had the first game of the season without a single blocked shot. He also suffered a minor injury of the tailbone and had to leave the court.
The game was decided in the second quarter when the OKC outscored the Jazz 40-26, marking the highest number of points that any team scored against the Jazz in a single quarter this season. The young team unraveled after that, never even coming close to turning this into a contest. With Durant playing, the OKC definitely look like an elite team and if everyone stays healthy, they might just be the team to give the Warriors a run for their money down the line.