Oklahoma City â€” Moments after taking ownership for having “let the city down” in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s disastrous loss in Monday’s Game 4 against Dallas, Kevin Durant walked back onto the court, his head held high, and quickly hugged his grandmother, Barbara Davis, and then his mother. Before Durant could sneak away, Wanda Pratt brought her son in closer and whispered into his left ear: “Don’t put this all on yourself. Keep playing. Keep being you.”
Durant nodded without saying a word, then walked away, hands clinging to the straps of his backpack, without acknowledging his father, Wayne Pratt, his brother, Tony, his representatives, Aaron and Eric Goodwin, and other close friends and associates. His season would officially end two nights later in Dallas.
After the Thunder’s season ended in the Western Conference Finals, 500 plus OKC Thunder fans gathered at the airport to greet the players and staff as they returned to Oklahoma City. Is there any question which team has the best fans in the NBA? Check out the amazing footage below.
To commemorate KD securing his second straight NBA scoring title, Nike has produced the Zoom KD III Scoring Title shoe. The upper of the shoe salutes the people and places that helped KD become the best scorer in the NBA today. Kevin debuted this home colorway of the shoe in games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Mavericks. Take a look at the shoes and see if you can decode some of the details.
One by one, from DeShawn Stevenson to Dirk Nowitzki to Jason Kidd to Shawn Marion, they each pulled Kevin Durant in close for a parting message. What was said will remain between Durant and each of his opponents. What was said was greeted by a nearly despondent Durant, who was seconds removed from the Thunder’s 100-96 season-ending loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
By the time he got to the podium for the post-game press conference, Durant was composed and reflective, complimentary toward his teammates and blunt with his emotions.
“This is a different feeling,” Durant said. “To be honest all of us expected to go far. We had high expectations for us going into this year and we knew we worked hard enough.”
For the second straight game, the Thunder surrendered a late lead against the veteran Mavericks team, who are headed to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. But the Thunder didn’t suffer such a drastic collapse as it did in Game 4. With a smaller, faster lineup on the floor for the better part of the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City did not let the Mavs seize control until the very end.
Durant, who again faced a plethora of defenders, capped his second postseason with 23 points on 8-for-20 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Some might argue that this is a rite of passage for the young superstar and his equally as young teammates, that these hard times are part of the learning process which all budding championship contenders must go through before reaching the summit.
Mistakes were made and lessons will be learned, yet when they’ll be put to good use remains unknown. But if we know anything, it’s that the level-headed Durant and his band-of-brother teammates will want to be quick to apply all of the experiences they’ve gained come the start of next season. They’ve come so far in so little time that it would be unwise to put anything past KD and the Thunder in the not-so-distant future.
Durant, for one, left the floor heartbroken but motivated. Beneath the glum face and slumped shoulders, there was an awareness to the celebration that transpired before him. It’s a desirable place to be. It’s why KD and his teammates play the game.
And it’s why Durant, sitting in that press conference, still exuded a raw competitiveness despite the fact his season was over. As kind-hearted of a person Durant is, and as respectful he is toward his peers, the Thunder captain strives to become synonymous with winning every step of the way. When Durant was asked, deep down inside, if he could feel good for Dirk Nowitzki, who after all these years will make a return trip to the NBA Finals, Durant did not take the high road.
Instead of giving a soundbite for what is sure to become the feel-good story of the Finals, Durant kept it real. He remained true to his feelings and to everything he stands for.
“I’m not happy at all,” Durant deadpanned. “I’m a competitor. I really don’t care what he’s been through the last three or four years…..I’m not happy for him at all because I want to be there. But it happens like that.”
For now, at least.
“I don’t know how soon we’re going to get there,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said of the NBA Finals. “But I can tell you this: guys are not going to hope to get there. They’re going to work to get there….We have a good future if our mindset is in the right place.”
Though she’s often seen dancing at Thunder games, sometimes Kevin Durant’s mom, Wanda Pratt, feels the playoff pressure too.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The situation was tense and couldn’t have been bigger.
Kevin Durant, the focus of more than 18,000 fans in Oklahoma City Arena and millions more on national TV, was concentrating during the critical fourth quarter of Game 7 of the second round of the NBA playoffs.
His team wins, and it advances in the playoffs. Lose, and the season is over.
“The biggest game of my life,” Durant said. “I was focused. I promise, I was locked in.”
Then he saw his mom in the arena and laughed.
Across the court, but clearly in another world, Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, was dancing. Her moves were captured for all to see on the giant video screen, and even her superstar son couldn’t help but smile.
“It relaxed me,” he said. “She’s been doing that my whole life.”
Durant and the Thunder went on to win the game against Memphis and now are in the Western Conference finals, facing Dallas for the right to play for the NBA title. The tension is back for Durant and his teammates, who are down 3-1 to the Mavericks with Game 5 tonight in Dallas.
Durant takes things in comfortable stride, from playing the game to dealing with fans, teammates and the media, thanks to his mom.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder can’t beat the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, it will be knocked out of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. A loss also would end a compelling run by one of the postseason’s most improbable stars.
We’re referring, of course, to Kevin Durant’s backpack.
Durant, Oklahoma City’s standout forward, created a phenomenon when he began wearing his knapsack to postgame press conferences this month. Not only does Durant fasten the backpack’s straps around his chest, he also has a habit of buttoning his shirt all the way to the very topâ€”nerd chic at its most blatant. The clean-cut Durant looks more like an eighth-grader shuffling his way to social studies than a 22-year-old multimillionaire who led the league in scoring.
Durant has said this was never about making a fashion statement. He simply wanted to be able to make a quick escape to the team bus after meeting with the mediaâ€”and to have easy access to his Bible, which he carries with him.
In the end, it was less about what Kevin Durant could not do than what the rest of the Thunder needed to do.
After a first half that saw Durant play as focused and under control as we’ve seen this series, the Dallas Mavericks smothered the league’s two-time leading scorer defensively, double-teaming him and making him the total focal point of their defensive scheme, basically inviting anyone else in an Oklahoma City jersey to step up and take a shot.
Durant was helpless, his teammates couldn’t hit a shot and now the Thunder finds itself on the brink of elimination after a 112-105 Game 4 overtime home loss to the Mavs.
“They played good defense,” Durant said. “We were missing shots. Our youth has nothing to do with it.”
This isn’t about pinning the blame on any one player; the Mavs were the better team and the team that did a better job of exposing its opponents flaws in crunch time.
The Thunder led by 15 points with just under five minutes to play in regulation. That’s when reserve James Harden fouled out and the Mavs upped its intensity in denying Durant any semblance of a decent look at the basket. Dallas outscored the Thunder, 17-2, down the stretch of the fourth quarter to force overtime and come away with its second straight road win.
It was a stark contrast in how the first half went for Durant.
From the very start of Game 4, it was evident what type of mindset Durant had come with. KD never settled. He was in full-on attack mode. After going 0-for-8 from behind the arc in Game 3, he didn’t attempt a three-pointer until the second half on Monday. By halftime, KD had 14 points on 6-for-8 field goals. He attacked the rim, set up his opponent in the post and took high-percentage shots from the perimeter.
When the second half came, the Mavs’ defense, led once again by Shawn Marion, locked in. Durant finished with 29 points on 9-for-22 shooting, 15 rebounds and four assists but nine turnovers.
“The guys that are getting the ball a lot are facing tremendous pressure,” Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Look, we’re game planning like crazy for (Durant).”
“Frustrating” was the first word that came out of Kevin Durant’s mouth following the Thunder’s 93-87 Game 3 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
Durant and the Thunder got the Mavs’ best shot defensively this series, as Dallas clamped down on the defensive end from the onset to eventually build a 23-point first half lead it would not relinquish despite Oklahoma City’s fourth quarter run.
It didn’t leave Durant speechless or irate, just frustrated. On Monday, the Thunder will have another chance to right itself and even this series at two games apiece.
In order to stop the game’s most consistent scorer, the Mavs knew they’d have to take a different approach to Durant. So they double teamed him off of pick and rolls and post ups, forcing the ball out of his hands. They got him out of his favorite spots by trapping or showing an extra defender. And they did all of this early and often, never allowing Durant or his teammates to settle into a rhythm.
After allowing Durant too much space to operate through the series’ first two games, and after surrendering more than 100 points in each contest to the lightning quick Thunder, the Mavs basically said, “enough is enough.”
“Durant’s a guy that you game plan for in your sleep,” Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s great. I’ve never seen a guy, 6-10, 6-11, do things that he’s done.”
Durant was held to 24 points on 7-for-22 shooting, including 10-for-11 from the foul line, to go with 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
“They did a good job of making it tough for us – give those guys credit,” Durant said. “…We’ve got to adjust and I’m confident we will.”
After closing out Game 2 with Jason Kidd on Durant – and with some success – the Mavs threw veteran Shawn Marion on Durant from the start of Game 3, and when Marion wasn’t shadowing him on the defensive end he was making KD work just as hard on the other end of the floor. Durant was held to just 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting in the first half and the Thunder as a team had shot just 29.4 percent from the field by halftime.
“We were much better tonight defensively and we had to be,” Carlisle said. “The first two games were poor. But tonight we played championship level defense for the first time in the series and now the challenge is to sustain it.”
Kevin Durant was at a point of no return, so the Thunder forward kept elevating. A collision was inevitable yet it seemed like the least of his concerns. It probably didn’t matter who was in Durant’s path at that point. It just so happened to be seven-footer Brendan Haywood, a player known for his grit and reputation as a paint protector.
Durant literally took the challenge head-on. Durant posterized Haywood with one vicious dunk and when KD picked himself up off the floor he looked as if someone had insulted his mother to his face. He even earned a technical foul for taunting.
That emphatic dunk, accompanied by Durant’s display of raw emotion, sent a jolt of energy throughout the rest of his teammates. Oklahoma City was trailing by 11 points with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter shortly before Durant attacked Haywood at the rim. That would serve as an early turning point to the Thunder’s 106-100 win at the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, evening the series at a game apiece as it shifts to Oklahoma City.
Sometimes, all it takes for a shift in momentum is a player of Durant’s caliber making a play that gets you off your seat. It isn’t calculated or premeditated, but when the opportunity presents itself it must be seized. That sequence undoubtedly will be replayed time and again on the highlight reels, and not even a few minutes after it happened ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy already had dubbed it the dunk of the year.
In the grand scheme of things, leaving Dallas with at least one win was the goal for KD and the Thunder, which received steady contributions from its bench (50 points).
This was nowhere near Durant’s 40-point Game 1 scoring barrage but it didn’t need to be because of teammates like James Harden (23 points) and Eric Maynor (13).
Durant finished with a team-high 24 points on 11-for-23 shooting to go with three rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Durant deferred to his teammates down the stretch, setting up Harden for a clutch three-pointer before hitting a step-back jumper of his own a few possessions later to give the Thunder a 95-90 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“It shows that guys don’t have to have big, great games to win,” Durant said of his performance. “It’s a team effort and that’s what kind of team we are. It’s about whatever it takes and that’s what we did tonight.”
For Durant, that meant getting others involved and carefully picking his spots. Durant had four points and two assists during a closely played fourth quarter in which the Thunder shot 11-for-17 from the field while holding Dallas to 9-for-22 shooting.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said that prior to the game he hammered home the point of “playing perfect is impossible, but playing hard is possible. You can do that.”