Durant was so-so in the first half; he made just four of nine shots and even had an air ball. But the Nuggets fouled him five times, setting up 11 foul shots. Then Durant heated up in the second half.
“They made it tough,” Durant said. “I hit some good shots with some tough defense.”
How about rough instead of tough? The Nuggets made Durant physically work for his shots, but that's one area where he's become a much better player. He plays, and scores, through contact.
“They threw many guys at him,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said. “Kevin understands he has to fight through all the defenders they're throwing at him.”
Karl admitted he doesn't have many options left on manning up with Durant. Karl mentioned injured wingman Arron Afflalo, who could return for Game 2 Wednesday night.
“We got three, maybe four” defenders for Durant, Karl said. “Arron comes back, might be another.
“Westbrook, we have less bodies to go there. Get Arron healthy, he can help on the Westbrook matchup.”
So in the course of five seconds, Afflalo went from possible Durant solution to being switched to Westbrook. Of course, that wouldn't work either. If Karl is going to play small point guards — Felton and Ty Lawson — particularly together, he's got to pay the price at the other end.
Durant and Westbrook made the Nuggets pay.
Of course, the Thunder has some problems of its own. Nene' showed that his vaunted showdown with Thunder strong man Kendrick Perkins will be a statistical mismatch. Nene' had 22 points and it seemed like 42.
Perkins has to play better Wednesday night. But the odds are great that Perkins will play Nene' better than whoever gets called into service will play Durant.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.