When the Thunder's season came to an end with an 88-84 loss to Memphis in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal on Wednesday night, four-time All-Star Kevin Durant no doubt was exhausted.
Durant misfired all night long from multiple locations, finishing 5 for 21 from the field, 11 for 15 from the free-throw line and 0 for 4 from 3-point range.
But as tired as Durant was, the man defending him might have been even more physically spent.
Veteran forward Tayshaun Prince spent his first 10½ seasons in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference and never had to defend Durant more than two times a season.
After being traded to Memphis in February, Prince's primary focused switched to Durant, who has won three straight scoring titles before this season.
Though Game 5 was Durant worst of the series, Prince said nothing changed in his defensive approach.
“It wasn't no different tonight, it was just a matter of trying to be as aggressive as I can,” Prince said. “He's definitely one of the toughest, hardest guys to guard in the league just by his ability to go in either direction. He's good both right and left and can pull up from behind the 3-point line.
“I just tried to continue to feel out his rhythm, his flow throughout this series. The first couple games it was tough.”
Teammate Marc Gasol smiled and said Prince wasn't given a special scouting report on Durant after arriving from Detroit. “You get to see plenty of Kevin Durant on TV,” Gasol deadpanned.
Prince said the key was shutting down Durant early, which certainly was the case Wednesday as Durant missed his first six shots from the field.
“I really wanted to concentrate on the first quarter because in the past he had gotten good looks early in the game,” Prince said. “That kind of helped tonight. At times. I think he wanted it so bad early on. He kind of forced a couple shots to try and get his rhythm, stuff like that.”
Prince scored just eight points himself on Game 5 and went 3 for 13 from the field, which did include an authoritative dunk over three Thunder defenders.
“From an offensive standpoint, I never got anything going just by chasing him (Durant) the whole entire time,” Prince said with a chuckle. “Every game, my legs felt like they were just gone because he gets so many picks, and pick-and-rolls. If there's one thing I could do to help the team is try to contest as many shots as I can, try to stay in front of him as best as I can.”
Afterward, Prince was extremely complimentary of Durant, calling one of the three toughest players in the league to defend.
“LeBron (James) and Melo (Carmelo Anthony) are the other two guys,” Prince said. “When they get that rhythm, it's hard to stop them. So you try to stop that rhythm at the beginning to at least give yourself a chance.”