NBA Finals: The truth about Kevin Durant's mid-game scoring droughts
THUNDER-HEAT -- Lately, those stretches when fans are wondering "Where's Kevin?" have actually proven to be the times when Oklahoma City's offense is functioning as intended.
To those that don't understand how the Oklahoma City Thunder operates best, the second and third quarters of Game 1 on Tuesday night were head-scratchers.
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Kevin Durant, the league's reigning three-time scoring champion, had squeezed off only four shot attempts.
He scored just eight points in his 22 minutes of court time over that span.
While many wondered how could that be — and why Durant wasn't the center of OKC's offense on every trip — what was going unnoticed was how the Thunder was methodically clawing its way back from a 13-point hole and setting up Durant for another one of his fabulous fourth quarters.
“I'm a guy that lets the game come to me but is also aggressive at the same time,” Durant said. “I know when to take shots, when to make the right play. People can say this and that. I learned to just tune it out and just play my game.”
It seems a part of it is becoming a game of possum.
After spending the second and third quarters setting up teammates and focusing on defense and rebounding, Durant came alive in the final period, scoring 17 of his game-high 36 points to lead the Thunder to a 105-94 victory.
It was the eighth time this season that Durant has scored at least 15 points in a fourth quarter. And there's a theme that has emerged in those contests: in five of those games, Durant had attempted 15 shots or fewer through three quarters.
Tuesday, he had attempted 10.
“I just know it's going to come back around,” Durant said when asked about his mindset during those dry spells.
All season, the Thunder has been at its best when everyone is involved. Sure, Durant's scoring skills have carried the team, but it hasn't been the result of a one-dimensional attack.
With fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook and reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, the Thunder has two other options that can be equally deadly. But only when less-heralded offensive players such as Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison are threats is when OKC has been truly unstoppable.
That's what turned the tide for the Thunder in Game 1, and it's what figures to continue to be a key as the championship series rolls along.
“It's always about making the right play,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There's going to be many opportunities that Kevin and Russell and James and other guys have to step up and score. But it's always about making the right play. If you think you can score and that's all you're thinking, you're thinking the wrong things. You've got to think of making the right play for your team.
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