TORONTO — Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant scored 51 points in Thursday night’s 131-128 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors, marking the first time in his storied career he scored 40 or more points in three consecutive games.
Durant finished the night 18-for-31 from the field, 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and 11-for-12 from the free throw line. He added 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
“My only focus is being the best version of me that I can each possession on both ends,” Durant said about why he has been so dominant recently. “Once you just focus on that, you get lost in the game. Makes or misses or turnovers or mistakes really don’t matter. Just move onto the next play. Try not to have a lot of mistakes, but if you do have one, just move on.”
Durant was on point throughout, but it was down the stretch where he shined the most, knocking down a turnaround 3-pointer in the corner over Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard that left a sellout crowd in Scotiabank Arena in stunned awe and sent the game into overtime.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr admitted that even he isn’t sure how Durant has been able to play at such a high level over the past week.
“I have no idea,” Kerr said. “You’re going to have to ask him. He’s just in a groove. He’s that talented, though. Where if he starts to feel it, he can get any shot he wants pretty much any time. So when he’s feeling it, there’s not a whole lot a defense can do.”
Kevin Durant speaks to the media after he drops 51 points in a 131-128 loss to Toronto.
To put Durant’s performance Thursday into context, he became the first player to score 40 or more in three straight games since Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook did it in February-March 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
This was the sixth 50-point performance of Durant’s career, his second with the Warriors. The most recent player with three straight games of at least 44 points, as Durant did, was Kobe Bryant in March 2007.
The Warriors now have three players with a 50-point game this season. The only other team with three different 50-point scorers in a single season is the 1961-62 Lakers — Elgin Baylor had five, and Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso each had two, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“To see him obviously stepping up to the plate and carrying the load like that, the scoring load like he is, he’s been spectacular to watch,” Draymond Green said. “And obviously doing it in KD fashion: efficient, within the game. It’s been really, really special to watch and obviously comes at a much needed time for us.”
Added Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko: “He’s the best offensive player I ever played against. So to see him do it for my team, it’s unbelievable. He can score at any point. Too bad we didn’t come out with the win, but Kevin is doing his thing. We need that. It’s going to keep happening.”
The Warriors are still without Curry (strained left groin) and Green (toe soreness), meaning even more of the opposition’s focus is on Durant, making his recent performance even more impressive.
Kerr said Curry would play in Saturday’s game against the Detroit Pistons and Green was expected back at some point at the end of the Warriors current five-game trip.
“Everything gets better,” Kerr said of having Curry back. “Food tastes better. Your guys’ questions get better. Obviously we’ve been looking forward to getting him back, but again I’m proud of the way the guys have fought without him and hopefully Draymond won’t be too far behind him and we’ll have a better flow, better feel for who our team really is. And in the meantime we’re doing a good job holding down the fort.”
Durant tried to describe the boost that comes with knowing that Curry is on the way back.
“I just can’t describe it to be honest,” Durant said. “I know everybody’s going to be excited, but nobody’s going to be more excited than he is. He wanted to play tonight, you see him on the bench, we talked, and he was just chomping at the bit to get out there, especially having a matchup like Kyle Lowry, somebody that he respects and we all respect. He believed that would have been a great test for him, but Steph’s one of those guys that trusts the training staff, he trusts the organization and they got his best interest. Next game we’re looking forward to having him back.”
After several weeks of turbulence on and off the floor, Durant’s performance gave the group a big lift even in a loss.
“He can take over games, he can do it on both ends of the floor, and he’s being a great leader,” Klay Thompson said. “We’re missing two huge voices in Steph and Draymond, but he’s out there quarterbacking, directing and just playing like one of the all-time greats.”
The Raptors led by as many as 18 points, but the undermanned Warriors clawed back, led by Durant as he continued to heat up from the field. Leonard set the tone early for the Raptors, finishing with 37 points of his own while trying to keep Durant in check.
It was the first matchup between the superstar players since Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals. For many NBA fans, it’s a matchup they would love to see again during the Finals. The Raptors visit Oracle Arena on Dec. 12.