Memphis defense has knocked Kevin Durant from his moorings

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm •  Published: April 30, 2014

But that was four years ago. Allen is a beast, but the Thunder has to get better production from Durant. This is not a team built to take up the slack elsewhere. Sure, a Reggie Jackson 32-point game can fall out of the sky. But count on that too many times, and it’s happy trails for the Thunder.

“I’ve seen great players have poor playoff games,” said Super Vet Derek Fisher. “That happens, in terms of shot percentages. But what can’t dip down is that undying sense of urgency, every play, every situation is the most important one.”

Fisher says the Thunder can’t lay this series all on Durant or even Russell Westbrook. But Fisher is wrong. This Thunder team was not built to sustain off days from its stars. This Thunder team is fueled by Durant and Westbrook. One or the other, preferably both, have to play at a high level.

If both struggle, nothing else matters. The Thunder is cooked.

This is a historic series in more ways than just the four straight overtimes, which might never be equaled. This series is becoming an historically bad series for the presumptive MVP. And it doesn’t speak well for the Thunder future.

The Durant and Michael Jordan career ascensions often are compared. For good reason. Not that Durant is or will be the player that Jordan was, but that Durant is progressing, growing, learning and hopefully developing into the champion that Jordan became.

Except at age 26, his fifth season in the NBA, Jordan led his Bulls to the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals. Durant, at 25, is in his seventh pro season. Chicago ran into the Detroit Pistons, the Bad Boys of recent 30-for-30 fame. Those Pistons were one of the great defensive teams of all time and one of the toughest. They dispatched the Bulls and went on to the NBA title. In 1990, same script. Detroit beat Chicago for the East crown and also won the NBA. In 1991, it was Jordan’s time. The Bulls swept the Pistons, then Chicago won the first of its six NBA titles.

Three straight Eastern Conference showdowns for Jordan against Joe Dumars and Friends.

In ’89, Jordan shot 46 percent from the field and averaged 29.7 points. In ’90, 46.7 percent and 32.1 points a game. In ’91, 53.5 percent from the field and 29.8 points a game.

Jordan, even while paying his championship dues, was the bedeviler. So far in this Memphis series, Durant is the bedeviled.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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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