OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant is becoming the king of closing games
With his 18-point, fourth-quarter scoring barrage — which included 16 straight for his team during a five-minute stretch — Durant on Saturday enhanced his status as one of the league's best closers.
Through two quarters in Game 4, Kevin Durant sat on eight points. He had attempted just four shots.
Kendrick Perkins had twice as many attempts as the reigning three-time scoring champ.
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Some saw it as a malfunction of the Thunder's offense.
Really, it was a moment in which the mounting maturity of both Durant and the Thunder was revealing itself.
With his 18-point, fourth-quarter scoring barrage — which included 16 straight for his team during a five-minute stretch — Durant on Saturday enhanced his status as one of the league's best closers. But what he did through three quarters, dishing out six of his game-high eight assists, is what represented the next step in his evolution as a clutch performer.
“His ability to make shots under pressure is great,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But I like the fact this year he's really stepped up on making plays and making the right play.”
There was a time when Durant's clutch gene was in question. Nobody seems to remember those days now that Durant has a growing number of game-winners under his belt. A seemingly equal amount of sensational fourth quarters like Saturday's perhaps has pushed Durant over the top as the game's greatest closer.
But remember the first three quarters of Game 4.
Those 36 minutes were a reflection of how Durant has learned to let the game come to him. At no point did Durant play recklessly while forcing the issue. Instead, he trusted his teammates throughout, playing unselfishly and turning the Thunder into a more frightening nightmare through precise passes that made everyone else a threat.
“There are times when I need to pass to my teammates and times when I need to score,” Durant said.
Durant's dominant fourth quarter in Game 4 was a byproduct of that understanding. He manipulated the Spurs so masterfully that his first half went overlooked and underappreciated. By helping his teammates early, Durant later benefited from how the Spurs defense no longer could key on only him.
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