The common perception when NBA stars dominate is that they score a ton of points.
More often than not this holds true, as there are nights when RIDING THE HOT HAND is the way to go. Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performance on the Toronto Raptors and Stephen Curry’s 62 points against the Portland Trail Blazers are just some instances that come to mind when teammates understood the assignment and watched history unfold.
As mesmerizing as scoring can be, however, there are other ways to take over the game. Big men like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Shaquille O’Neal have come up with video game numbers at the peaks of their respective careers, scoring over helpless defenders on one end and controlling the paint on the other side.
Kevin Durant’s 51-point explosion in the Brooklyn Nets’ 116-104 win over the Detroit Pistons was just another instance of a supernova performance that the defense had no answers for. The two-time Finals MVP knocked down five 3-pointers in the game, scored in transition, and went deep into his bag to score in a bevy of ways.
With his scoring numbers, it’s easy to forget that Durant also finished with seven rebounds, nine assists, two blocks, and a steal. The 2014 NBA MVP has been one of the few constants in what initially looked to be an uncertain season for the Nets, who are still without Kyrie Irving and needed a few games out of James Harden before he could be the Harden of old.
Durant taking on a prominent role on defense and running the offense is nothing new as these have been some of the things he demonstrated in his previous stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors. That the two-time NBA champion is just a few years removed from an Achilles tear and a few months from playing for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics only adds to the praise he rightfully deserves for carrying Brooklyn and doing so in convincing fashion.
Durant’s 51 points are his highest scoring output with the Nets and currently stand as the league’s highest scoring performance this season. Whether or not it will be eclipsed may be the wrong question to ask as Curry, Devin Booker, and Trae Young can easily put up points on the board. The refinements to the rules the NBA made with regard to how fouls are called could make it harder for the likes of Booker, Young, and Harden to eclipse 40 or even 50 points but the course of the season could change things.
Lost in the amazement over Durant’s scoring performance was another stellar outing from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Playing in the Madison Square Garden brings out the best games from the stars and The Greek Freak earned his first triple-double of the season in the Milwaukee Bucks’ resounding 112-97 win over the New York Knicks.
Antetokounmpo finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal, and a block, helping set up the likes of Khris Middleton, who finished with a team-high 24 points, and Bobby Portis, who had a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. In all, it was a pretty much a total team effort as Thanasis Antetokounmpo was the only one who sat out, while seven Bucks players reached double figures.
Like Durant, Antetokounmpo has been a constant for Milwaukee, as they navigated early struggles and injury woes. As simple as the two-time MVP’s approach to the game is, defenses have yet to completely stop this version of Antetokounmpo.
He too can score and was second in the NBA in points per game behind Durant, but how the five-time NBA All-Star reads the floor and takes advantage of mismatches with his individual abilities and with what he sees on the court makes Antetokounmpo, and in turn Milwaukee, harder to defend.
Dominance in the NBA is defined by more than just huge scoring numbers; doing a little bit of everything has its effects on the complexion of the game. Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo can rack up points with ease, but the other aspects with which they affect the game speaks to their true impact on their respective teams and what they have achieved as of late.
Oh, and before we forget, LeBron James had a little something to say about contributing on multiple fronts, as the King also had a triple-double and carried the Lakers to a win over the Magic with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.