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Kevin Durant plays hero again with Russell Westbrook sidelined

Kevin Durant's unbelievable season continued with a masterful performance in Toronto.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

TORONTO -- The game should have been over. Kevin Durant should have never had the chance. The Toronto Raptors led the Oklahoma City Thunder by eight points with 49 seconds in double-overtime, but a combination of timely threes -- one by Durant, one by Derek Fisher -- and Raptors blunders put him in position to win it. Toronto's Amir Johnson forced Durant to gather the ball near halfcourt with six seconds left, down by two.

"The more pressure you put on [Durant] right now, the more he steps back, and his range is out of control," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said before Friday's game. "He can step across halfcourt and the basket's always open to him. So that's what makes him different."

"What's going through my head is that's about to be cash." -Jeremy Lamb on Durant's bomb

Durant took two dribbles left, brought his impossibly long arms high above his head and released the ball from 30-plus feet. Johnson contested it as well as you can. He was right there.

"What's going through my head is that's about to be cash," Oklahoma City swingman Jeremy Lamb said.

Durant had 48 points as the shot went up, 35 after halftime. Russell Westbrook, who banged knees with Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry in the third quarter -- the team called it a sprain --  watched from the locker room. A sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd held its collective breath.

"I couldn't go another overtime, so I had to live with whatever happened," Durant said. "We had to get out of there."

The result surprised no one. He swished it.

"If you got Kevin Durant on your team, you're safe," Toronto point guard Greivis Vasquez said. "He's like Jesus in this league. He makes unbelievable shots. It's funny because we went to [Montrose Christian] high school together and now I see his development and how he plays in this league. He gotta be one of the best, probably the best player in the world right now."

"If you got Kevin Durant on your team, you're safe. He's like Jesus in this league." -Greivis Vasquez

Durant's 52 minutes were a season high. His 51 points were not. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished seven assists, a number that could have been higher with a bit of help. Durant blocked Johnson's shot in the paint with less than a minute left in the first overtime, and that was as big a play as any up to that point. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks preferred to praise his all-around game rather than focusing on the spectacular scoring.

It could have all been for naught, too. If his team hadn't forced a turnover and had the fortune of a couple of missed John Salmons free throws, there would've been no hero shot.

"That was the craziest game I've ever been a part of," Durant said.

Good Morning, It's Basketball

The entire basketball world feared the worst when Westbrook went down, and it also expected Durant to carry the Thunder. He did it earlier this year, establishing himself as the favorite for MVP. Saturday's MRI could change the course of Oklahoma City's season, but Durant could only hope and pray for Westbrook when he was helped to the locker room. What Durant did afterward meant Westbrook was clapping when the team joined him there.

"I don't think he's really thinking too much about the moment or what happened before, he's just right there trying to make that shot," Thunder forward Nick Collison said. "And that's why he's so good late in games. He's obviously got a ton of ability, but he's not scared to miss it. He's just trying to make it and he's got a clear head. Incredible. He's an incredible player and he's just getting better, too."

Westbrook sounded surprisingly chipper, considering how ugly it looked when his knee bent backward. He said he was nervous at the time, but he felt good and would "get looked at and go from there." He saw his team jump out to a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter, let the Raptors back in, go back and forth for a while and fall behind. He was proud they fought back. He said Durant just did what he's been doing all season.

"I was in the back wishing I could go out there and help ‘em out," Westbrook said. "But, as you see, Kevin took care of that."


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