Kevin Durant showed no mercy to Kobe Bryant in his penultimate game in the NBA on Monday as the Oklahoma City Thunder trounced the Los Angeles Lakers 112-79.
Bryant, playing his final game on the road before he retires after Wednesday’s home game at the Staples Center, was given a torrid send-off by the Thunder’s star players.
Durant, who finished with 34 points, said he had been motivated by the memory of Bryant’s ruthless approach to Michael Jordan when the NBA icon was approaching retirement.
“I remember when Michael Jordan was on his way out and Kobe didn’t take it easy on him,” Durant said.
“That’s all I was thinking. I was trying to destroy him every chance I got. Every time I got the ball, he was ‘Come on. Let’s see what you got.’ That shows what type of player, what type of competitor he is. I just wanted to play against him one last time.”
Durant’s points tally was matched by yet another triple double from Russell Westbrook, his 18th of the season — the most by any player in one season in the past 30 years.
Bryant was left voicing admiration for Westbrook after his latest triple.
“I have never seen a guy get as many triples-doubles as many times as he has in a season,” Bryant said.
“That is pretty outrageous what he has been able to do all year long. He has been flying under the radar because of what Steph (Curry) is doing up there in Golden State. But he is having a remarkable season himself,” added Bryant, who was pleased with the lack of sentimentality shown to him by Westbrook.
“I didn’t smile much on the court either,” Bryant said of Westbrook. “He plays the game with such energy, such aggressiveness, it needs to be appreciated. He is not out there trying to be cute with the basketball. He’s not out there trying to look fancy. This guy’s playing hard every time down.”
Bryant finished with 13 points on four-of-12 shooting from 19 minutes.
The 37-year-old admitted he was looking forward to signing off from the sport on Wednesday after two decades.
“I feel really excited,” Bryant said. “I feel really happy. I’m looking forward to lacing them up one more time.”
The Thunder’s Steven Adams meanwhile joked of being awestruck by Bryant.
“I shook Kobe’s hand,” Adams said after the game. “I ain’t going to wash my hand for like a week.”