Kevin Durant Learning To Be Clutch
How do you learn to become clutch?
By going through what Kevin Durant has over the past two weeks. By walking off the court as Durant has done in three of the past six games with your head hung following the hard luck and heartbreak that comes with last-second letdowns.
Durant has failed to come through for the Thunder in the final seconds three out of four times already this month and is suddenly experiencing the hardships all the greats have faced before earning their closer labels.
Durant showed against Denver on Jan. 2 that he’s ready to take and make the big shot. He nailed an off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.7 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 120-119 lead against the Nuggets. But Carmelo Anthony matched Durant’s heroics by sinking the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 left on the clock.
That wasted magic seems a distant memory going into tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz. Durant’s big-game status has come in question because of his failed attempts to tie or win the ball game in the final seconds of each of the past three outings.
He missed a potential game-tying 20-footer with 9.3 seconds remaining against Houston on Jan. 9. The Rockets won by two.
One night later, he missed a potential game-winning 22-footer with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation against Chicago. The Thunder prevailed 109-98 in overtime.
And on Monday against New Jersey, Durant missed a 20-footer from the top of the key with 36.5 seconds left in regulation. The Nets won 103-99 in overtime.
“But Kevin has made big shots in the past and he’s going to continue making them,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. ”I don’t really look at him as a guy that can’t make shots in the clutch because I know that’s who he is. He’s a clutch shooter.”
According to the Web site 82games.com, Durant enters tonight’s game as the league’s 22nd best scorer in “clutch” time. Clutch stats are defined by games in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points. Durant averages 31.3 points per 48 minutes of clutch time, ahead of players like Andre Iguodala, Chris Bosh, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Caron Butler and Michael Redd.
But 70 percent of Durant’s clutch time points are assisted, meaning he’s rarely creating for himself or others. Worse, his 5.2 clutch time turnovers per 48 minutes are the 10th highest in the league. Those mistakes have been on display in the last three games, with Durant totaling 18 turnovers, four coming in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“I believe that players go through tough stretches, whether it’s a young player or a veteran player,” Brooks said. “What you have to do is you have to understand what you’re going through and try to find solutions to correct your problems.
“When you become really good, you need to get a good shot. (Michael) Jordan was obviously good early on. But when he became special, he could make that shot and he could find open teammates. With Kevin, he’s going to draw a lot of attention. If he’s open he has to shoot it. But now if he has guys open he has to make that extra pass. I think the great players make the right play.”
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