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Kevin Durant: The mismatch that defines the Thunder-Nuggets series

by Berry Tramel Published: April 18, 2011

In his first playoff game ever without Ron Artest attached at the hip, Kevin Durant kept making shots of all kinds and all distances. He scored 41 points and the Thunder needed virtually all of them in a 107-103 survival of the wildly interesting and entertaining Denver Nuggets.

But on a couple of Durant's four straight shots in the third quarter, the Nuggets had Raymond Felton guarding Durant.

Yep. I am not making this up. The Nuggets' 6-foot-1 point guard.

Later, when Denver coach George Karl commiserated about a defeat that could have gone the Nuggets' way, he talked about making adjustments. Talked about stiffening up on Durant and Russell Westbrook, too, and making this a seven-game series.

There's only one problem. If Karl already has resorted to Felton, the Nuggets already are out of options.

Durant was at his best Sunday night; 41 points on 22 shots is big-time basketball, and it didn't seem to matter whether Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler or Kenyon Martin was chasing Durant. Durant was on and ready to proclaim — through his play; certainly not through his voice — the 2011 NBA playoffs his grand stage.

Durant certainly was the hero of the NBA's first playoff weekend. Sorry Dwight Howard, you've got to win your game to receive that mantle.

Upset fever grabbed the playoffs, with three underdogs winning and three more (Knickerbockers, Pacers, 76ers) scaring heavy favorites.

The Thunder seemed susceptible, too, until Durant and Russell Westbrook (31 points) rode to the rescue.

And now Karl has a serious problem. He's got no one to guard Durant and no one to guard Westbrook as his Nuggets try to beat the Thunder four times in six games over the next two weeks.

“As hard as we're playing, I think we'll be able to make some adjustments, control their other players, be a hell of a series,” Karl said.

Hell of a series? Maybe. Make adjustments? What can Karl possibly do?

Bobby Jones, Fat Lever and even Dahntay Jones, his 2010 stopper, are gone. Heck, who knew these Nuggets would miss Carmelo Anthony's defense? Carmelo would have been better than what the Nuggets tried.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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