The Thunder-Spurs series has been superb basketball. Even dramatic. But until Game 5, it had not had a last-possession type setup. Game 1 was a 101-98 final, but the Thunder hit three 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds to get that close, including a trey at the buzzer.
Not until Game 5 did we see a last-seconds shot that could win or tie. And not surprisingly, Manu Ginobili’s 3-point shot, which would have tied the game with three seconds left bounced off, and the Thunder won 108-103.
In the wake of the Heat’s last-seconds failure in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, ESPN Stats & Information reported that in these playoffs, Miami is 0-for-7 on shots in the last 24 seconds of games that could put the Heat ahead or tie the game.
That sounds bad. But really it’s not out of the norm. The rest of the league is 4-for-27 on such situations in these playoffs. Baskets are very hard to come by with the game on the line.
Unless you’re Kevin Durant. The Durantula is 3-for-4 in such situations these playoffs. That’s right, 3-for-4. Which means the rest of the NBA is 1-for-30. Orlando’s Big Baby Davis is the only other player to make a shot to tie or take the lead in the final 24 seconds of a playoff game.
Durant’s clutch shots:
* The 16-footer at the buzzer that beat Dallas 99-98 in Game 1.
* The running one-hander that rolled in with 18.6 seconds left in Game 2 against the Lakers, giving the Thunder a 76-75 lead in a game in which it won 77-75.
* The 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left to give the Thunder a 101-98 lead in Game 4 against the Lakers; the Thunder went on to win 103-100.
Durant’s only miss in such a hero setting was Game 3 in Los Angeles, in which his 3-point shot in the final seconds bounced off, with the Thunder trailing 99-96.
What is making Durant so special in the last 24 seconds of a tight game? “He’s arguably the best player on the planet,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
It’s not anymore complicated than that? “Not really,” Pop said.
Durant has become a passing whiz — he’s got 27 assists in five games of the Spurs series and is averaging 4.1 assists per game in the playoffs. But in crunch time, he’s been willing to take the shot and able to make it.
Durant’s heroics haven’t been eliminated to just the last shot.
Dallas Game 1: Eight points in the last 51/2 minutes, including six in the last 2:17 in a game in which OKC won by one point.
Dallas Game 2: The go-ahead foul shots with 50.4 seconds, in a game in which OKC won by three.
Dallas Game 4: Nine points in the fourth quarter, which started with OKC trailing by 13. This was the James Harden game, but the Thunder rally got going with KD.
Lakers Game 2: Eight points in the last 5:50, a spree which started with the Thunder down six.
Lakers Game 3: Eight points in the last nine minutes.
Lakers Game 4: 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Spurs Game 4: This one you remember — 16 straight Thunder points in the fourth quarter of a tight game.
Spurs Game 5: Nine points in the fourth quarter, even though he got no shots the final 41/2 minutes.
I don’t think Popovich. I don’t think Durant is the best player on the planet. Not yet. But he’s the best fourth-quarter player on the planet.