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Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant raising his game

by Berry Tramel Published: June 3, 2012


The current Western Conference Finals are the biggest basketball stage of Kevin Durant’s life. He’s playing against a regal team, the Spurs, that until Thursday night had won 20 straight games, the fourth-longest win streak in NBA history. And how has Durant responded?

With numbers that surpass his regular season production. So against the Spurs, Durant has been better than he was in totality against the likes of the Raptors and the Suns and the Timberwolves. That’s amazing.

In the four games against the Spurs, Durant has been sensational. He’s averaging 29.0 points a game, shooting 53.4 percent from the field (39 of 73), he’s made 34 of 35 foul shots and he’s averaged 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots. The only downside has been nine turnovers. But every one of those numbers is an improvement over his regular season, with the exception of rebounding. Even the turnovers are down.

Durant’s regular season numbers: 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 3.8 turnovers, with 49.6 percent shooting and .860 foul shooting. Well, I guess Durant’s 3-point shooting (4 of 14) is down from his 38.7 percent in the regular season.

But wow. Unbelievable performance by Durant. For the Sunday Oklahoman, I wrote about KD’s great fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 109-103 victory in Game 4 Saturday night. You can read it here.

Durant was unstoppable in the fourth quarter (18 points on 7-of-9 shooting), but he was solid earlier in the game, despite being just 2-of-4 in the first half.

“With Kevin, it’s not about shots,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said Saturday night. “It’s about playing very consistent with some toughness and making plays for his team. I think he had eight assists tonight. They’re a great team. They’re a team that plays great defense. They’re not just going to continue to give him looks. I give him credit. He opened up the defense by making passes, and that’s what our guys did tonight. Our three playmakers did a great job of finding our bigs for open shots.

“He’s really improved as the years have gone by of becoming a better playmaker, and that’s through the work that he puts in with our staff. They do a great job, and he’s a worker. He comes into practice every day trying to figure out ways to improve his game.

“This year, we challenged him to be a better playmaker for his team, and he did that. He’s done that all year. Even early in the season, he’s had some turnovers by doing that. They weren’t selfish turnovers. They were turnovers trying to find his team and everything clicked tonight. He was finding himself at the end, but finding his teammates early in the game.”

In this series, here are the assist leaders: Russell Westbrook 27, Durant 22, Tony Parker 22, James Harden 15. That’s right. Durant has the same number of assists as the Spurs’ vaunted point guard.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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