Kevin Durant dribbled, backing down Tony Allen, leaning on the Memphis defender.
But as Durant leaned in, Allen backed off.
Like that, Durant was sprawled on The Peake hardwood.
Instead of late-game heroics, there was heartbreak.
On a night when the Thunder superstar had his best performance of these playoffs — a near triple-double — it wasn't enough to save the Thunder. He wasn't enough to save the Thunder.
Grizzlies 99, Thunder 93.
The harsh reality is that in this series against these Grizzlies, Durant might not have enough to carry the Thunder to the next round.
But he is going to give it everything he has.
“I can carry as much as Coach can give me,” Durant said.
That mentality is obvious after the first two games of this Western Conference playoff series. After hitting the game-winning shot on Sunday, he had a masterful game on Tuesday.
His stat line: 36 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block.
One more assist, and Durant would've had his first postseason triple-double. But even without it, it was still another big-time performance.
“Durant got it going and was scoring,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said..
It's nothing new for Durant in the postseason. He has scored at least 20 points in 34 consecutive playoff games, the third-longest streak in the last four decades.
More impressive, though, is what Durant has done in these playoffs. He has scored 30-plus points in five of the six games since Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook got hurt.
Think about that for a minute.
Since losing his sidekick, the guy who absorbs all sorts of defensive pressure and takes weight off of his shoulders, Durant has still managed to hit that 30-point plateau in almost every game.
You just keep wondering: can he keep this up?
How many times can a guy go into hero mode?
How much can he be depended on?
“He's an amazing player that brings it every night,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He did everything he can possibly do.
“He put us in a position to win the game.”
And it doesn't sound like the Thunder is willing to ask any less of him moving forward.
“He can carry a team,” Brooks said.
But it was clear down the stretch Tuesday that he needed help that never materialized. He missed a three with a little less than two minutes left, then the next Thunder possession he committed that turnover when Allen pulled the chair out from under him. It was his fifth turnover of the game. There was another miss from behind the three-point line on the next possession.
When plays needed to be made Tuesday, Durant didn't make them.
“I made those shots last game. I missed them this game,” Durant said. “I'm going to keep taking them. I'm going to continue to be aggressive, no matter if I make it or I miss it.”
Maybe Durant can do more.
He says he can.
“I always can do more,” he said. “I've got to put my teammates in better position to score. I turned the ball over too much. I thought I could've made better passes. I shot some shots when I should've drove, when I should've got closer.”
Maybe he can do all of those things. Maybe we still haven't seen the limit of what he's capable of.
But there was a limit Tuesday night.
And it meant that a big-time performance didn't lead to a big-time win.