Dirk Nowitzki's Game 1 performance overshadowed Kevin Durant's scoring outburst

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Staff Writer dmayberry@opubco.com Published: May 18, 2011

Despite sitting four wins shy of his first trip to the NBA Finals, he's remained as humbled as ever.

“I don't think I'm in a zone,” Durant said. “I wish I was.”

His teammates disagree.

“He's real focused, and this is the time of the year where we need a leader like that offensively to carry us all. And he did that,” said guard Thabo Sefolosha. “It's impressive the way he's playing and leading this team. It's great, especially at such a young age.”

Durant had a disappointing experience in his first taste of playoff basketball. In the six-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Durant averaged 25 points on 35 percent shooting. He converted just 28.6 percent from 3-point range and averaged 3.6 turnovers. But he's showing how quickly he learns. And even though the Grizzlies, with pit-bull defenders Tony Allen and Shane Battier, laid a few speed traps, Durant ultimately hurdled them.

It was that Game 7 that turned the tide and shaped the makings of a monster.

“I saw him a lot more aggressive and not being afraid to go to the basket and be physical against those guys,” Sefolosha said. “I think (the) last game against Memphis was like a spark for him doing that. Just playing physical went his way so I think he keeps doing that.”

If Durant sustains his sizzling scoring streak, the Thunder will be hard to beat. But Oklahoma City will undoubtedly need some of its role players to provide some assistance. Russell Westbrook struggled with his shot in Game 1, and Serge Ibaka and James Harden were the only other players who mustered anything offensively.

Which makes what Durant did even more impressive. Even on an off night, the Thunder hung tight with the Mavs. Much of that was due to Durant.

“I'm probably his biggest fan, just because he's a quiet guy,” said Nowitzki. “He's fun to watch. He can get his shot off at any time. He's athletic. He can get to his spots whenever he wants. He's probably one of the toughest covers in this league. You're not going to stop him with one guy. You got to rotate guys on him. You got to help with five guys.

“We actually thought we did that and he still got 40. That's how amazing of a talent he is. The future of this league is in his hands.”



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