DALLAS – Kevin Durant said it was just a play.
Sure. Just like the Pacific Ocean is just a puddle of water and the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground.
The Thunder had been playing soft on defense, loose on offense, not at all like a team that was already in a desperate situation in the Western Conference finals and trailed the Mavericks 28-19.
That’s when Durant made a play, his play.
He took the ball on the right side of the lane, whooshed past Peja Stojakovic fast enough to give him whiplash and jumped right through the roof of the American Airlines Center.
Well, almost. What Durant did was to elevate so high that his navel was practically in the face of Dallas would-be defender Brendan Haywood and he slammed the ball down like he was swinging the hammer of Thor.
“We needed a basket and there was an opening,” said Durant.
For its power and splendor, it was almost like watching the space shuttle lift off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. For its effect, Thunder coach Scott Brooks couldn’t have gotten his team’s attention better if he’d have set off a string of firecrackers in the huddle.
How big was it? ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy credited it with changing the game.
How awesome was it? Hall of Famer Magic Johnson called it “one of my top five dunks of all time in the playoffs.”
It was the kind of eye-popping slam dunk that might make Dwyane Wade’s son start yelling, “Durant!” when he slams one home on his Nerf hoop.
It was shades of Dominique Wilkins for its power, shades of LeBron James for its elevation and shades – dare we say it? – of Michael Jordan for the fury and angry message that may have been intended to wake up his team.
Even though he was slapped with a technical foul for taunting, Durant completed a three-point play that was part of a 7-3 OKC run to close the quarter and seemed to jolt the Thunder into consciousness and get them engaged in the battle.
“I thought the difference in that game from the first game was just attitude,” said center Kendrick Perkins. “We played harder. We played tougher, especially after that dunk. He put that down and – bam! – it got everybody’s attention.”
It definitely got ours.
So it’s time to rate K.D.’s spectacular slam. Where does it rank on your dunk-o-meter?