When Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin rose to No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA’s free-throw percentage standings last week, they started exchanging some playful banter back and forth. They would kid each other on the rare occasions they missed at the line. It was all in good fun in a race to find the superior Kevin.
The fun is still there, but the kidding has stopped. You can blame it on Cleveland, where Durant went 13 for 17 (.765) in a 115-110 road loss to the Cavaliers last Saturday. “We’ve been calling each other out,” Martin admitted with a smile, “but (Monday) we decided we’re just going to go back to shooting free throws because he called me out and missed four and I missed one.”
Durant and Martin have flipped positions after recent outings. Martin now occupies the top spot at .904, just ahead of Durant, who has slipped to .903 after shooting just .782 (25 for 32) from the line the last three games. Golden State guard Stephen Curry, whom OKC faces at 7 tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, is No. 3 at .902. The Thunder leads the NBA from the line at .834. The single-season league record is .832 by the 1989-90 Boston Celtics.
In league history, only two sets of teammates have finished 1-2 in the NBA’s final free-throw percentage standings, dating back to 1946-47. Larry Bird (.910) and Danny Ainge (.897) finished 1-2 with the Boston Celtics in the 1986-87 season. Rick Barry and Calvin Murphy did it twice while teamed up with the Houston Rockets, with Barry claiming the title both times – .935 to .897 in 1979-80 and .947 to .928 in 1978-79. (Barry and Murphy finished 1-2 again in 1972-73, 1974-75 and 1975-76, when Barry was with Golden State and Murphy was with the Rockets.)
Durant admitted he constantly reminded Martin of this year’s updated free-throw percentage standings. “I let him know every day,” Durant said after Wednesday morning’s shoot-around. “I didn’t say nothing today because I was down. I missed five free throws in two games, so I’ve got to get back on track. I’m going to get him. I’m going to catch him.”
Who does Thunder coach Scott Brooks like to win the race? “I like Kevin,” Brooks deadpanned.
- John Rohde