Published by admin in Blog on December 28th, 2011 | 0
After having a dismal shooting first half, KD came back in the second half to lead the Thunder to a 98-95 victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. KD finished with 32 points (on 10 of 17 shooting), 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Thunder now head home to OKC to take on the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. You can catch the game on TNT at 7PM OKC time.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid Kevin Durant is that everyone expected this type of performance from him.
Game 6 was one of the most forgettable showings of Durant’s young career. He knew it, his coaches knew it and the national media made sure to remind him over the next 48 hours.
But in between the criticisms and mounds of pressure placed on his young shoulders, everyone around Durant spoke confidently – almost knowingly – that he would turn it around and put his teammates in the best position possible to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Even the opposing coach, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, quipped after Durant’s 11-point Game 6 performance: “He’s saving himself for Sunday.”
The more plausible take is that Durant simply was determined to not let this be the Thunder’s final game of the season.
Durant played like a man on a mission, fulfilling the role of team leader and further cementing his status as a clutch performer. His 39-point performance on 13-for-25 shooting (4-for-9 from three-point range, 9-for-9 from the free-throw line) came in the first Game 7 of his still budding career, a 105-90 romp over the Memphis Grizzlies that set up a date with the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals.
Durant had more points (18) in the first half of Game 7 than he did all of Game 6. He talked about being aggressive this time around, and he went out and did just that.
“I just attacked the basket, tried to get to the free-throw line and get in better positions to score,” Durant said. “My teammates did a better job of getting me in position.”
Everyone worked their hardest to allow Durant do what he does best. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison set harder screens to free KD. Russell Westbrook hooked up with Durant on several alley-oops and backdoor plays. And Durant, for his part, did not settle for jumpers.
“He showed the heart of a champion,” Hollins said.
And Durant showed it on both ends of the floor.
What shouldn’t go unnoticed were his nine rebounds and three blocks. His second block, which came on a Mike Conley fast break layup late in the third quarter, was quickly followed by a Durant three-pointer in transition that gave the Thunder a 14-point lead during a game-changing third quarter run. KD scored 13 points in the third, during which he displayed his full scoring arsenal, from perimeter shots to attacking the rim to strong post moves.
Afterward, Head coach Scott Brooks couldn’t speak highly enough of Durant, calling him an “incredible human being” and praising his work ethic.
“There’s so many things I’m proud about Kevin but the main thing is he works every day to be a great player,” Brooks said. “He doesn’t take anything for granted. So I knew he would come back and have a fantastic game.”
The dissatisfaction on Kevin Durant’s face was impossible to hide.
When the Thunder forward took the podium following the Thunder’s 95-83 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of a Western Conference semifinal, Durant had a look of disappointment on his face that we’ve probably never seen before. At times, he looked angry. While he spoke with humility, he also kept things in perspective.
“I’ve got to keep it positive, come to work tomorrow and get better and leave it on the floor in Game 7,” he said.
This postseason has been about constant evolution for Durant, who has continued to reach new heights with each passing game, gaining first-time experiences along the way that are helping to mold the psyche and mettle of one of the game’s rising talents. When KD is pleasing crowds and lighting up scoreboards, as he often does on a nightly basis, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 22, in his fourth season and that this is just his second postseason. That’s not making excuses; it’s just adding context to the big picture for Durant.
Over a career, nights like Friday are almost inevitable. It was ugly, yes, and there’s no gentle way of putting it. For Durant, it was a career postseason-low of 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins described Durant’s performance like this: “He’s saving himself for Sunday.”
Hollins said that lightheartedly but without pretense. You know, and Hollins knows, that Durant having a bounce-back performance in Sunday’s decisive Game 7 wouldn’t surprise anyone.
“He will come back,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s what makes him such a great player – his toughness night in and night out.”
The Thunder didn’t play with much toughness when it took the floor for the second half on Friday. Memphis had already begun to erase a 13-point lead. In the end, the Grizzlies had outscored the Thunder, 51-29, after halftime. The Thunder relied too heavily on the long ball, making just 4-for-25 from behind the arc.
Durant attempted the most, going 1-for-9 from three-point range. That, coupled with Durant’s two fouls in the game’s first 4:23, never allowed him to settle into a rhythm.
“I was just thinking too much rather than playing with my instincts,” KD said, “but I’ve just got to go out there and play my game.”
Check out the Nike Zoom KD III Kevin wore in game 5 against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The custom NIKE iD colorway of the shoe was designed by one of his twitter followers and personally hand picked by KD to wear during one of his home playoff games. You can customize your own pair of Nike Zoom KD III shoes on NIKE iD HERE or by clicking on the photos below:
In the end, Kevin Durant got to sit back, take it all in and be a cheerleader. No triple-overtime was needed on this night. No late-game heroics or clutch shots were necessary from the Thunder’s two-time All-Star forward.
Durant and Co. put in their time and left their mark early on in Game 5 of its Western Conference semifinal against the Memphis Grizzlies, showing they could adjust and overcome any situation that may come their way. KD scored a team-high 19 points to help the Thunder to a 99-72 victory in what will go down as Oklahoma City’s finest defensive performance of the postseason.
“We played great defense,” Durant said. “Everyone was in tune, locked in. It was a group effort.”
It’s what allowed Durant an opportunity to rest the entire fourth quarter – that and the 53 points the Thunder received from its bench players. This was KD’s lowest point total of the postseason, but the Thunder will gladly take that if it leads to victories. Durant did shoot 7-for-14 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots in 30 minutes.
Fatigue wasn’t a factor on this night, and judging from the rest Oklahoma City’s starting unit had during the fourth quarter it shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.
If anything, the Thunder looked rejuvenated playing before a home crowd, particularly in the third quarter when Oklahoma City turned an 11-point lead into 19 thanks to an eight-point quarter from Durant.
Now, Durant and the Thunder have their first lead of the series and a chance to close it out on Friday in Memphis.
“We don’t want to be over confident but I think we have a good level of confidence,” Durant said. “There’s a fine line bet being confident and cocky but if we play hard and go in there and stick together, we’ll have a good chance.”
Stopping Kevin Durant might be an impossible task. Slowing him down, well, that happens to even the best of them.
But ask Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins to explain his team’s defense on Durant, who scored 22 points in Saturday’s 101-93 Game 3 loss to the Grizzlies and shot just 2-for-10 for four points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Hollins struggled to put his finger on it.
“I can’t say we stopped him,” Hollins said after his team too a 2-1 series lead. “Did we really stop him or did he just miss shots? Basically, he just missed shots.”
KD, ever the humble player whether in victory or defeat, tipped his cap to the Grizzlies for the way they clogged the paint and challenged his shots with Tony Allen defending him for most of the night.
“I’ve seen multiple defenders when I catch the ball,” said Durant, who also finished with 12 rebounds. “Tony Allen did a great job. They just played great team defense. They’re tough. Like I said I just have to make some adjustments and hopefully i come back next game and play aggressive.”
But this isn’t a one-man game and even Durant knows that he’s far from the only Thunder player who needs to make adjustments heading into Monday’s Game 4 in Memphis.
The Thunder blew a 16-point third quarter lead on the road against the Grizzlies in large part because its offense stalled and Memphis capitalized. Oklahoma City’s half court offense slowed and the ball stopped moving.
For his part, Durant said he wants to do a better job of attacking the lane and getting to the free-throw line, where he shot just one freebie in Game 3, a far cry from the 11.1 foul shot attempts he averaged through the first seven playoff games. Part of what makes Durant such a dynamic and versatile scorer is his ability to create for himself from both the perimeter and in the lane.
Afterward, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said he would have liked Durant to have more scoring opportunities down the stretch.
“Absolutely,” Brooks said. “Kevin’s one of our best players and he has to be able to get good touches. They were doing a good job of clogging the paint and throwing multiple defenders on him. We have to figure out a way to attack that.”
Kevin Durant’s third quarter scoring barrage was a clinic on how a great player makes adjustments on the fly against a talented defensive team in a pressure-cooker of a playoff series. And it perfectly embodied the way his Thunder teammates were able to counteract a surging Memphis Grizzlies team that had stolen Game 1 of this Western Conference Semifinal in Oklahoma City.
Durant finished with 26 points, including 8-for-10 shooting from the foul line, to go with five rebounds in a playoff-low 34 minutes as the Thunder evened this best-of-seven series at a game apiece with a 111-102 win, and Durant did most of his damage in the third quarter when he scored 10 straight points.
How KD got those buckets spoke to his growth as a marked man in the postseason.
First, he pulled a fast one on his defender, Sam Young, by turning and sealing on him in the low post, receiving an entry pass and finishing with a short jump hook shot. On the next possession, Durant broke down Young from the perimeter, got into the lane and drew the foul for a pair of free throws, the league’s two-time scoring leader playing to his strengths by working his way to the charity stripe. And when Memphis overplayed Durant on the wing the possession after he drilled a jumper off a tight curl, KD wasted no time in going backdoor to connect on an alley-oop lob pass from Russell Westbrook.
And all of this came after a first half in which Durant was saddled on the bench with two fouls for a 6:23 stretch.
Thanks to the Thunder’s role players stepping up, Durant didn’t have to dominate on this night although he was more than efficient. He and his teammates started and finished the night with a level of intensity they could not reach in the series opener. KD emphasized that much after the team’s sluggish Game 1. Durant didn’t have to call out his teammates, but he led in his own way. On Tuesday night, that meant leading by example.
“We’ve got to continue to bring that effort and energy every day and that’s what we’re doing,” Durant said afterward.
First, he faced Denver’s Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler. Now, it’s Memphis’ Tony Allen and Shane Battier.
It’s no surprise that teams have put their best defensive stoppers on Kevin Durant this postseason. It just so happens that Denver and Memphis both employ some of the game’s top perimeter defenders.
Not that you would ever hear Durant complaining. By now, the two-time NBA scoring leader and All-Star has come to expect an opponent’s best shot on a nightly basis. Game 1 of a Western Conference Semifinal between the Thunder and Grizzlies on Sunday was no different, as KD found himself harassed and hawked by two defenders in Allen and Battier who contrast in style but together embody the type of defensive team the Grizzlies have transformed into over the latter part of the season.
And Durant still got his own in a 114-101 Game 1 loss, finishing with 33 points on 11-for-21 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks in a postseason-high 44 minutes. But for all the defensive prowess the Grizzlies played with during its first-round manhandling of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, it was actually their scrappy, down and dirty offense that got the best of the Thunder.
The Thunder’s only lead of the game came off its opening possession before the Grizzlies built an early double-digit lead.
For his part, KD had one of those impressive yet under-the-radar performances, with the second quarter (two points on two shot attempts in eight minutes) being his only lull of the game. Aside from that, he was steady with a 23-point second half that helped the Thunder stay in this one.
This was Durant’s third straight game of at least 30 points and fourth such game of the playoffs. Sunday also marked Kevin’s first double-double of the postseason, as hitting the boards has become a greater emphasis this round because of Memphis’ size down low.
Looking forward to Tuesday’s Game 2, Durant knows both he and his teammates can play at a higher level.
“We didn’t have any energy, they played harder than us, give those guys credit,” KD told reporters afterward. “We’ve gotta come out with more fight next game.”