HOUSTON — Kevin Martin says he doesn't deal in pressure. Doesn't acknowledge its existence.
Fair enough. Let's use a different term. Responsibility. It's Martin's responsibility, more so than any other Thunder, to patch the scoring hole left by the injured Russell Westbrook.
And that didn't happen in the maiden voyage without Westbrook. Martin had 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting Saturday night in Game 3 of the playoff series against the Rockets. The Thunder won 104-101, but it won't win much the rest of these playoffs with that kind of production from Martin.
Martin went scoreless the final 36:50 of the game. His 3-pointer midway through the second quarter gave the Thunder a 53-29 lead. That's 53 Thunder points in barely more than 17 minutes. In the final 30-plus minutes, the Thunder scored 51 points. Martin went 0-of-6 in the second half. A layup was blocked, four mid-range shots missed and a 3-pointer was way off the mark.
That's not what the Thunder needs with Westbrook laid up.
“Just missed some shots,” Martin said. “That's how I look at it. Hopefully next game, I can hit some shots in the second half … take more responsibility and try to get going early, taking some pressure off KD.”
Well, yes, it would be nice to not require Kevin Durant to score 41 points and initiate most of the offense. And here's what's also nice. Martin knows the score. He knows what his job is.
“I know what they brought me here for,” Martin said. “So just continue to take shots and drive to the hole, take pressure off KD, just be the scorer they need me to be.”
Martin has not had a good series against the Rockets. Three games, 11-of-35 shooting, 38 total points.
But we should have seen it coming. Martin arrived in the famous James Harden trade on Oct. 27 and was effective immediately. In 17 November games, Martin averaged 15.9 points. But his scoring has gone down every month, and the Thunder's reliance on Martin has gone down, too. In November games, Martin averaged 14.1 usages, which are possessions ended by a particular player, either by shot, foul shot or turnover. By March, that average was down to 12.2 and in April, 10.8.
You can argue that good players can get lost in the Durant/Westbrook domination of an offense. But Saturday night, Durant was crying out for help and getting little from Martin.
Here's how Martin's status has changed over this season. When Martin was producing at a rate not so far from the Harden standard, the question was whether the Thunder could afford to re-sign Martin, who will be a free agent this off-season. But the question has morphed into, does the Thunder want to re-sign Martin?
Certainly the final 37 minutes of Game 3 didn't make Sam Presti wring his hands over trying to keep Martin.
Scotty Brooks, who has been preaching that no one can replace Westbrook's production, admitted he needs more out of Martin and even offered strategy that could help.
“He scores better when he's moving,” Brooks said. “We gotta keep moving him.”
If Martin can't be more productive with Westbrook gone, Martin will be moving, all right. Moving on.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.