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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kevin Durant: Pretty good at basketball

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder is introduced prior to playing against the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2011 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Wednesday night was a pretty special evening for basketball.
The Miami-Philadelphia game will go down as the runt of the three-game litter, and that featured the underdog 76ers going shot for shot with the Heat, up until Andre Iguodala transformed from a clutch performer back into a poor decision-maker on Philadelphia’s last possession.
The San Antonio-Memphis game had one of the more dramatic finishes to regulation you will ever see, as a would-be game-tying desperation three-pointer from Manu Ginobili was correctly changed to a two. Of course, that did not stop rookie Gary Neal from hitting an actual game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer to help keep the Spurs, who won in overtime, alive.
If basketball fans went to sleep after that finish, it would be tough to blame them. Very little could top the insanity of that game. Except, Kevin Durant did.
With his Thunder trailing the Denver Nuggets by nine points with fewer than four minutes, Durant made the following plays.
  • With 3:23 remaining, Durant collected the ball after one of nine — nine! — blocks from Serge Ibaka, pulled up in transition and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 91-85.
  • With 2:30 remaining, Durant spun into traffic, spun back the other way and hit a jumper that was really more of a one-handed floater over a defender from just behind the free-throw line to cut the lead to 91-88
  • With 1:50 remaining and everyone expecting him to shoot, Durant cut into the middle of the defence, drew multiple defenders, kicked the ball to James Harden, who hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 91-91.
  • With 1:21 remaining, Durant caught the ball from 18 feet away, stepped back and hit a jumper over a defender to tie the game at 93-93.
  • With 1:05 remaining, Durant drove to the basket, spun away from two defenders and hit a floater while being fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw to give the Thunder a 96-95 lead.
  • With 46.1 seconds remaining, Durant saw that the Nuggets had switched their coverage, putting power forward Kenyon Martin on him. He drove immediately, earned a foul, and hit two free throws to give the Thunder a 98-97 lead.
  • With 12 seconds remaining, Durant evaded a defender on an inbound play, and hit a pull-up jumper over Denver centre Nene to give the Thunder a 100-97 lead.
  • With nine seconds remaining, Durant blocked a three-pointer from Denver’s J.R. Smith that could have tied the game. Aaron Afflalo missed another three-pointer, and the Thunder advanced.
Durant finished with 41 points. The degree of difficulty on some of those shots was, well, stunningly high. He had 14 points, hitting five of his six shots in the final 3:23 of the game.
“I don’t care how many guys we put on him,” Denver coach George Karl told nba.com, “he’s probably going to make those shots.”
“I was just thinking I didn’t want to go back to Denver,” Durant said. “It was cold and rainy and their crowd said some not-nice things to us, so I didn’t want to go back there. Our guys told me, ‘Take the game over, it’s your time.’”
And it was. What is special about Durant is that what Karl said is true: Those shots were unguardable. When Durant gets going, there is no stopping him once he catches the ball. Due to his long arms, his shooting touch and his ability to put the ball on the floor, difficult shots are just shy of routine for Durant when he is feeling it.
Of course, that does not mean the Thunder are on a rocketship to the moon. Oklahoma City went 1-7 against San Antonio and Memphis, their two possible second-round opponents, during the regular season. Two of their wins over Denver, both at home, required super-human 41-point performances from Durant. Point guard Russell Westbrook has caught heat for poor decision-making.
However, with Durant and Westbrook at their bests…well, take it away, KG.

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