Oklahoma City Thunder: Is Kevin Durant the new Closer King?
Lost in the revelry of the Thunder’s comeback victory over the Lakers in Game 2 Wednesday night was this question: Did we see the passing of the mantle for the NBA’s Closer King? Did it go from Kobe Bryant to Kevin Durant?
Kobe melted down in the final two minutes, then failed to get open with five seconds on an inbounds pass. When the Lakers called timeout and got another chance, Mike Brown changed the play, sending Kobe on a flare to the backside, which frankly is a gotcha play. Try to catch the Thunder in some kind of mixup. Didn’t happen, and Metta World Chaos instead inbounded to Steve Blake, who missed a good-look 3-pointer.
Meanwhile, Durant made the play of the night, with his drive to a running one-hander, a 7-foot shot that rolled around and in to give the Thunder a 76-75 lead with 18 seconds left. It wasn’t a last-second shot, ala his game-winner to beat Dallas in Game 1 three weeks ago, but still. Clutch city.
And with Kobe’s status as Mister Clutch taking a beating – the widely-reported 0-for-7 in shots that would give the Lakers the lead or a tie in the final 24 seconds of playoff games the last five years — Durant suddenly is ready to assume the role.
Here’s what Thunder fans have to love about Durant’s 2012 playoff heroics. Both have come via aggression. A pullup jumper against Dallas; a drive against LA.
Against the Lakers, Kendrick Perkins set a screen for Durant, 25 feet from the basket, and 7-foot center Andrew Bynum switched over to Durant. That was Durant’s signal to drive, and he went around Bynum rather easily and got to the baseline. Another 7-footer, Pau Gasol, awaited, and Durant lofted a soft shot that rolled around and fell in.
“Kevin made a great play,” said Scotty Brooks. “There’s a lot of growth in Kevin’s play. He’s attacking the basket and trying to get something going south instead of settling for a jumpshot.”
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