Kevin On Earth: Durant Delivers Once Again In Crunch Time

Sunday, May 5th 2013, 7:23 pm
By: News 9

Just when you think you've seen everything Kevin Durant has up his sleeve, he goes out and has a game like that.

Without All-NBA sidekick Russell Westbrook available, Durant was the sole focus of the league's best defensive team in Game 1 of this second-round series against Memphis. It didn't matter.

With the clock winding down, KD jogged the ball up the floor, gave Tayshaun Prince a shimmy that put the elite Memphis defender on ice skates and pulled up with 11 seconds remaining. And, of course, he buried the 19-foot dagger to give OKC its first lead in 23 minutes and 11 seconds at the most vital of times, sending Chesapeake Energy Arena into pandemonium.

This game belonged to Kid Clutch, but the 93-91 come-from-behind victory wouldn't have come to fruition without key plays down the stretch from the Thunder role players.

There was Derek Fisher's poke away from Mike Conley that led to KD's game-deciding jumper.

There was Thabo Sefolosha's high-effort attempt at a steal that resulted in a Memphis turnover with 3.5 seconds to play.

Serge Ibaka had a few key blocks, two fourth-quarter 3s from Fisher, solid point-guard play from Reggie Jackson, and a marquee 25-point outing from Kevin Martin. All played huge roles in this rousing Thunder victory, but it was Durant who had the magic touch to put the Grizzlies away for good.

It was really the quintessential KD performance; a beautiful blend of his uncanny scoring ability and his unwavering trust in his teammates.

Durant has certainly stepped up his offensive production post-Westbrook, averaging 35.4 per game, but his Sunday performance was transcendent – 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal a game-winning shot. Not too shabby.

His increased aggression has gone smoothly, as his attempts have gone up but his efficiency has remained intact. He shot 13-of-26 against the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA and converted 9-of-10 from the foul line.

But what makes it even more special is he does it within the natural flow of the game; it isn't forced. He recognizes what is needed of him and responds.

When the Thunder got off to an abysmal shooting start (0-for-10) to start the game, he took on the offensive responsibility, scoring 10 of the team's 14 first-quarter points.

But in the second quarter, KD recognized the defense collapsing on him and took on a facilitator role, finding open teammates for an explosive 33-point quarter in which he scored just four, all on free throws.

But in the fourth quarter he struck a balance, dishing out three assists – all of which were for wide-open 3-pointers. He also hit six shots, including two cold-blooded jumpers in the final 37 seconds to propel the Thunder to the win.

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And that's not even mentioning his impact on the boards against the much larger Grizzles, as KD accounted for more than one-third of the team's total rebounds (15-of-43).

There isn't much else you can say about this performance. It was a masterpiece.

A lot of people were quick to put limitations on what the Thunder is capable of achieving without Russell, but nobody tell that to No. 35. He lives for these moments, and it would be dangerous to doubt what he's capable of moving forward.