It started around the 11:22 mark of the fourth quarter—that thing that the Golden State Warriors, the basketball version of Ocean’s Eleven, do when they want to take something.
The young, stubborn New York Knicks were up 6 at that point (they’d been up by as much as 10), but really it felt like they were down 0-3 in a 7-game series. Against the Warriors, a six-point lead in the fourth is about as safe as a bike ride on EDSA.
The first thing that Kevin Durant, the basketball version of a tarantula, took was an open three. Then he took off for a dunk. Then he drove hard and took the soul of his nemesis Enes Kanter. In just two minutes (or just about the same amount of time us mere mortals spend to brush our teeth), Durant had scored eight straight points.
The Knicks tried to hold up, valiantly fighting, resisting, until they couldn’t resist no more. Life came at them fast before they can even say, “Life comes at you fast.” At the 7:27 mark, Durant scored on an off-balanced, one-handed floater to give the Warriors the lead for good, 95-94. The Knicks had the lead, blinked, and lost it.
Blink and KD hits a smooth three. Blink again and KD with a cruising layup. Blink and KD swishes a contested jumper. 104-96, Warriors. And Durant wasn’t even done yet.
It should’ve been just another one of those Steph Curry-in-MSG games, where Curry’s defenders are forced to ask themselves existential questions such as, “Why do we even exist?” The Warriors is a mean All-Star squad (whose fifth All-Star gets ejected for talking trash) while the Knicks is one of the youngest teams in the league with an average age of 24.
Without their savior Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks resembled less a competitive playoff-bound team and more a team on a year-long seminar with David Fizdale. They shouldn’t have remained in the game for as long as they did, but for three quarters, the Knicks competed like a team bound for the playoffs.
But the Warriors, a team you don’t mess with as Josh Duhamel found out recently, just had to make it interesting. They always do.
Durant went on a personal bucket montage that Curry, who just two nights before scored 51 points, only needed to hang back and watch Durant highlights happening in real time. New York is where Curry dropped his career-best 54 points back in 2013, but this was Durant’s night. With his looming free agency at the end of the season (and the Knicks in desperate need of greatness), this was also, perhaps not-so subtly, New York’s pitch.
The crowd cheered for him. Ashanti, who apparently is Durant’s favorite R&B singer based on a thorough investigation by #NBATwitter, performed during halftime. Outside the Madison Square Garden, a billboard, hanging on the side of one of the Manhattan buildings, appealed directly to the two-time Finals MVP: Can you make NY sports great again?
In that ridiculous fourth quarter, where he outscored the Knicks 25-16 all by himself, Durant showed that he can make NY sports great again, even if he was not draped in Knicks colors.
The idea of Durant ditching The Bay for the Big Apple isn’t a bizarre one. The New York connections are there. There’s the thing about Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, being a diehard Knicks fan and native New Yorker. There’s the relationship between Kleiman and Knicks president Steve Mills. There’s the legendary Rucker Park game where Durant scored 66 points. There’s the promise of a KD-Porzingis-Knox-Ntilikina lineup.
Then, of course, there’s Durant and his two titles and the two asterisks that, undeservingly, will forever be attached to them. A New York relocation, which is both risky and brave, might fix that. He can make a brand new start of it in old New York.
If his solo fourth quarter heist in Madison Square Garden proved anything, it’s that Durant is still—without a doubt—the smoothest, most lethal scorer in the league. With Curry on the bench and Klay Thompson chilling, Durant only needed himself, the ball, and the spotlight to carry his team, any team, to victory. He finished with 41 points in 24 shots, including 5/9 from outside.
When Curry returned to the floor, the game was done. Durant already got his point across and the Knicks had stop arguing with him. The Knicks nearly stole that game, but the Warriors stole it back.
It ended around the 2:42 mark, when after just making a three-pointer, Durant brought the ball down, and pulled up for an unnecessary long teey to give the Warriors a 20-point lead, 118-98. It could’ve been Durant’s response to the New York serenade. It could’ve been a fuck you to Knicks management. It could’ve been a kiss to the crowd, a promise that he’ll return in 2019 as a Knick. It could’ve been any of these things. With a 30-year-old Durant and his future, we can never be sure.
It could’ve been nothing at all and it was Durant just being Durant, finishing the job with utmost professionalism and grace.
The Knicks, a team desperate to relive its lost glory, could use someone like that.
Photos from Getty Images