Kevin Durant’s final bucket on Tuesday night put him into even rarer historical air. At the 1:03 mark of the fourth quarter, Durant blew by Keldon Johnson for an emphatic two-hand slam that put the Suns up five and gave Durant 27,001 points for his career.
He joins LeBron James as the only active players in the 27,000-point club.
Unfortunately, Durant and the Suns, who held a lead as high as 20 in this game, melted down from there.
After Victor Wembanyama carded a midrange jumper and a follow-up dunk to cut Phoenix’s lead to one with six seconds to play, Durant took the inbound pass in the coffin corner, wound up trapped, and had the ball ripped away from him by Keldon Johnson, who proceeded to finish what would prove to be the game-winning bucket in a 115-114 Spurs win.
Durant came up with scratch marks and blood on his face after this turnover. It’s pretty clear that contact was made, but it’s debatable whether that contact came before, during, or after the steal, which wouldn’t necessitate a whistle. Don’t be surprised if you see this addressed in the league’s Last Two-Minute Report on Wednesday. Even if the report says Durant was fouled, that, of course, won’t do the Suns any good. Losses don’t get reversed.
That said, the Suns shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place. Never mind coughing up a 20-point lead; that happens in today’s NBA quite a bit. All Frank Vogel had to do was call timeout after the Wembanyama dunk, and the ball would’ve advanced to half-court.
OK, so Vogel didn’t call timeout because there was an opportunity to quickly inbound to Durant, who’s an automatic free-throw shooter. It’s still risky in the backcourt, for reasons we saw play out, but reasonable.
In this case, Durant still could’ve, and should’ve, called timeout himself the instant he felt himself trapped in the corner. He didn’t. And he didn’t make the game-winning attempt he had on the other end, either, though it was an incredibly difficult shot.
In the Western Conference, where important seeding is going to be decided by one or two games, losses like this hurt as badly in October as they do in March and April. There’s no way the Suns should’ve lost in this fashion, and something tells me Durant is more upset about this than he is happy about joining LeBron in the 27K club.