Originally Published: February 9, 2014

1. Why Durant Won't Cook Up One More Dish

By Royce Young | TrueHoop Network

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant leaned over, grabbing at his shorts and had the kind of look on his face like he was about to plead for his life.

Sitting on an incredible line of 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, he was only one more helper away from an elusive 40-10-10 triple-double in those three categories, something that has been accomplished only 13 times since 1985-86, the last being in 2010 by LeBron James when he still played in Cleveland.

As Jeremy Lamb popped off the bench to jog to the score table Durant could see it was over for him, and he looked at coach Scott Brooks.

"One assist?" Durant said to Brooks. "I need one?"

An obsessive tracker of stats, Durant knew. Didn't matter, though. With the game in hand and his shift already well served, Durant was coming out. He was going to have to settle for a ho-hum 40-10-9, which has now happened a grand total of 21 times since 1985-86. Oh, plus a 112-100 victory over the New York Knicks, which is important too, I guess.

Kevin Durant
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant's big game ended one assist short of a rare 40-10-10 line in the win over New York.

"It would've been cool to stay in. But whatever. We won the basketball game," Durant said. "That's all that matters. No doubt it would've been cool to get that but it's all about the W and I'm glad we won."

Durant checked out with 1:23 left and the Thunder up 13 at the time, so if he would've been going for the magical line, it would've required a bit of forcing. And obviously, that's not and has never been his style. There were opportunities for Durant to log that 10th assist in the final few minutes, but as it happens, that stat requires partnership with a teammate. First, Serge Ibaka rattled out a dunk attempt. Then Reggie Jackson caught front iron on a wide-open 3-pointer a few possessions later. And finally, Ibaka turned down a clean midrange look setup by Durant. Get one of those three plays to end in a basket, and the deed would've been done.

"I got on Serge," Durant said with a little grin. "He missed a dunk and he passed up a shot."

But when Brooks subbed him with a little more than a minute left, there wasn't a hint of dissension or disagreement on Durant's face. The game was over, his job was finished, and Durant knew it. He wanted the box score trophy to hang on his résumé, but he wasn't going to chase it. It was a game in which he obliterated one of his basketball peers, holding Carmelo Anthony to just 15 points on 5-19 shooting, and scoreless in the fourth quarter, reaffirming the gap that has developed between the two players.

And within that, Durant sent a slightly more subtle message about the difference in not just the players, but the organizational philosophies they play within. Just a few weeks ago, with his team up 30 entering the fourth quarter, Anthony was hunting a scoring mark, and played the first five minutes of the quarter to notch a 62-point night, setting a new Knicks record. Obviously, that number is more special than 40-10-10 and nobody should have any issue with the decision by Anthony and the Knicks to go for that, but keep this in mind: Durant also let his electric 30-point streak end at 13 games recently because he sat the entire fourth in a blowout.

"Actually, he did not [want to stay in]," Brooks said. "KD's a stat-filler. He's going to have many games, many opportunities to have a large number of points, assists and rebounds. I'm never going to worry about personal records. It's not something we do as an organization. It's great if he does accomplish them within the flow of the game. But I think you do what's right, and live with the results."

And Kevin Durant does a whole lot right, and the results rarely lie. His selflessness and team-first spirit are well documented, but as illustrated against the Knicks, he doesn't abide by that mantra on a case-by-case basis. It's a constant way of life with him and the Thunder, talking the talk, and always walking the walk.

Entering Sunday's game, Anthony held an incredible 11-1 record head-to-head with Durant. And while that number is a bit misleading (eight of those games were played in Durant's first two seasons), there's no question that much like his recent performance in Miami, Durant has been intent on resetting the narrative. The rampage he went on in January surely isn't sustainable, but he's obviously far from satisfied with himself.

Durant's elevation as not only one of the most devastating scorers the game has ever seen, but one of the most well-rounded players in the league, was on full display Sunday, showcasing the contrast in his and Anthony's games. Anthony is one of the most powerfully effective offenses forces in the league, with an array of moves and counters that makes him one of the toughest individual covers. But Durant has actively dedicated himself to being more than that, distributing and scoring on his counterpart on one end, and locking him down on the other. Durant's refusal to simply accept his scoring ability as his only basketball gift is what's really taken him from good, to truly great.

Royce Young's work appears on Daily Thunder, part of the TrueHoop Network.

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Royce Young

ESPN Staff Writer

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