Thunder forward Kevin Durant on Tuesday night topped 20 minutes, something he's done in every game this season.
Only this time his minute total in the Thunder's game against Utah could have significant implications.
According to the ESPN.com blog TrueHoop, no player in the past nine seasons who has played at least 3,000 minutes has gone on to win the NBA championship in that season.
Durant entered Tuesday's game 20 minutes shy of the 3,000-minute plateau, prompting Thunder coach Scott Brooks to jokingly tell reporters before the game that he was shutting down Durant for the rest of the year.
“Well you guys are going to hear it first,” Brooks said. “Tonight we're going to rest Kevin for the rest of the season. Breaking news.”
The last player to win a championship in the same season that he played at least 3,000 minutes was former Detroit center Ben Wallace, according to TrueHoop.
Durant's 2,980 minutes played entering Tuesday's games led the league, while his 38.7-minute average ranked second to Chicago forward Luol Deng's 39.2. After playing 37 minutes against the Jazz, Durant now has played 3,017 minutes this season.
Brooks, however, doesn't view Durant's major minutes as much of an issue.
“He's going to play and he's going to play a lot of minutes,” Brooks said. “It hasn't affected us one bit. Obviously when you're 24 and have the energy that he has and the ability to play at the level that he has, minutes is really not a factor. We've never gone into a playoff series and said ‘Man, he's tired. He's beat up. We're not going to be able to get anything out of him.' ”
TOUGH TESTS DOWN THE STRETCH
Tuesday's game at Utah was the fourth straight tough test the Thunder faced at the start of April, and all four have come against teams that entered the game on a hot streak.
OKC started with a back-to-back against San Antonio and Indiana. The Spurs had won seven of 10 entering the game against the Thunder, and the Pacers had won five straight when they faced OKC.
The Thunder followed that with a Knicks team that had won 11 straight before coming to Oklahoma City, and the Jazz had won seven of eight going into Tuesday's game.
“Anytime you're playing against good teams in April it's always going to get you ready for the playoffs,” Brooks said. “It doesn't guarantee you're going to have success but it keeps your mind focused on doing well because if you don't play with high intensity against some of the best teams you're not going to have success. And we take pride in playing well against every team. And we know in this home stretch of games we're going to have to play well to make every game competitive.”
After leaving Sunday's game late in the fourth quarter, forward Nick Collison was able to play Tuesday at Utah with no ill effects.
Collison checked out of the game with 4:31 left to play against the Knicks after getting hit in the face by Carmelo Anthony, a shot that resulted in blood oozing from Collison's nose.
“I'm good to go,” Collison said before the game.
Collison underwent a battery of tests Sunday and Monday, including a CT scan, but was cleared to play after passing all tests.
Utah announced Tuesday that center Enes Kanter will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Kanter, who averaged 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in his second season, will undergo surgery on Wednesday in Chicago. … A bizarre delay of game was called on the Thunder with one minute remaining in the opening quarter when Hasheem Thabeet took too long checking in due to problems removing a heating pack from his waist. … The Jazz played without Marvin Williams and Alec Burks due to injuries.