Posted at 2:16 a.m., Saturday, July 14, 2007
NBA: Sonic Durant scores 32 in loss as LeBron looks on
By Eric D. Williams
After two so-so previous efforts, Durant put on a show, finishing with 32 points and four steals in Seattle's 85-74 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Las Vegas summer league. The Sonics are winless with one game left Sunday against Portland.
Certain people watching from the stands might have served as extra motivation for the fluid rookie's elevated performance. The Thomas and Mack Center crowd included LeBron James, Spencer Hawes, Bill Russell and Gary Payton.
Sonics chairman Clay Bennett also was in attendance, flanked by Payton and Russell.
The 18-year-old Durant, who was in Las Vegas with James to tape the ESPY awards Wednesday, talked with the Cleveland Cavaliers star throughout the contest. At one point James offered a critique of a Durant jump, joking that he could have gotten more airborne.
"That's my man," Durant said. "He told me he was coming, but I didn't even know he showed up. I seen him on the sidelines, but it's just another person in the stands."
Durant started the game much as he did his first two contests struggling from the perimeter. But after going 1-of-10 to start the game, Durant began going to the rim instead of settling for 22-foot jump shots.
It worked. Durant got a couple dunks and plenty of trips to the foul line. He finished 13-of-16 from the line and 9-of-23 from the field.
Durant also played tough defense against Marco Belinelli, a sweet-shooting rookie from Italy. Belinelli came in averaging 25 points a game, but Durant held him to 16.
"I try to pride myself on not letting my man score," Durant said. "He's a great player. You can see why he's been killing it throughout the summer league. I just tried to bother him and use my length. And I think I did a good job."
In one second-quarter sequence, Durant showed why some NBA observers believe he'll be the next superstar, throwing down an emphatic, two-handed dunk. He then hustled down the court and snared an alley-oop pass intended for Belinelli that led to a Seattle basket.
On the next possession, Durant intercepted a pass intended for Belinelli and took it the length of the floor for another flush.
Seattle got another strong performance from fellow rookie Jeff Green, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. And 7-footer Mouhamed Sene was productive inside, finishing with seven rebounds and three blocks, although he did airball a free-throw attempt.
UCLA product Toby Bailey led four Golden State players in double figures with 17 points.