NBA Finals: Kevin Durant's fouls are troubling for Thunder
Spending time on the bench, while LeBron James remains in the game, does not bode well for Oklahoma City.
MIAMI — Kevin Durant has played 124 minutes in the NBA Finals. LeBron James has played 132 minutes.
Doesn't seem like much difference. Two minutes 40 seconds a game.
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But in this razor-thin series, with the Thunder having lost two games in which it had shots to tie in the final 30 seconds, 2:40 of Durant sitting and LeBron playing is the difference in the pole position for the O'Brien Trophy.
Durant's foul trouble has staggered the Thunder, particularly in Game 3 Sunday night, when Durant missed the final 5:41 of the third quarter, a span in which the Heat took control.
Durant also sat out a chunk of Game 2's third quarter, with four fouls. That can't continue if the Thunder is to get this series back to Oklahoma City.
“Kevin is an aggressive player,” said Scotty Brooks. “He plays aggressive basketball. We might have to change a few things up, but he's an aggressive player both ends of the floor.”
Do the changes mean Durant won't be asked to guard LeBron, who has drawn six of the 12 fouls called on Durant in the series? Do the changes mean Durant has to lay off Miami fastbreaks, considering two of his Game 3 fouls came in transition?
Brooks won't say, of course, but this much is true. Durant has to be more careful.
I know this series has become part Macho Man, Durant vs. LeBron for the crown of pro basketball. But Durant can't fall victim to such a siren song. He's got to play smart. Got to remember that discretion goes with valor. Got to remember the feeling of sitting the bench those 51/2 minutes, watching the Heat grab the series reins.
“I didn't want to come out of the game, but I knew that it was going to be tough for Coach to play me with four fouls,” Durant said.
I suppose. Most every NBA coach would sit their superstar at that point in the game. But espn.com analyst Kevin Arnovitz pointed out the circular argument: “Presumably, the decision to sit Durant for nearly six minutes is to ensure that he doesn't pick up his fifth foul, in which case he'd have ... to sit.”