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Carlson: Durant, Westbrook, Collison are survivors

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 16, 2011

“I think it maybe gives us that ability to just go play and see what happens.”

Durant, Westbrook and Collison have thrown caution to the wind during these playoffs.

Collison is playing with defensive abandon. What he did in the conference semifinals against the Grizzlies was akin to stopping a freight train. He turned Zach Randolph from the best power forward in the game to just another guy. He kept a hand on him at all times. He forced him to take tough shots every time.

The goateed guy from Iowa will be the face that haunts Randolph's offseason dreams.

Westbrook is playing as well as any point guard in these playoffs who is not named Derrick Rose. Save the NBA MVP, Westbrook has been as good as they come.

A triple-double in a Game 7?

Are you kidding me?

For as well as Westbrook has played at the ripe old age of 22, he's still the most analyzed and scrutinized player in the league.

And Durant has been downright masterful. In the Thunder's two series-clinching games, he averaged 40.0 points and shot 69.2 percent during the fourth quarter. When the pressure has been at its highest, Durant has been at his best.

That he was Sunday afternoon after a dreadful performance on Friday night is even more remarkable.

“He came back with a purpose on offense to really set his man up and come off screens better,” Brooks said. “He was in attack mode. He wasn't going to play ... hoping that he played better. He knew he was going to come out and give himself a chance to play better.

“Kevin learned from (Game 6).”

Just like he and Westbrook and Collison learned from that woeful start three years ago. They recognized that they were the leaders of this team. They knew that they had to keep working if they expected everyone else to follow suit.

“3-29 was tough to swallow at times,” Brooks said, “but what really gave me hope and gave our team hope is that every day we came into practice and worked.”

The Thunder coach called it “29-3 effort.”

Durant, Westbrook and Collison gave it then.

The Thunder is reaping the rewards now.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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