Kevin Durant is just like most of you.
He knows his shot's not falling. He figures it's bound to come around.
Like you, the three-time scoring champ sees his shooting percentages in this opening round series with Dallas and believes he's due.
“I do,” Durant said, “because I come in and I put in the work. It's not like I'm just sitting around and waiting for it to come to me. I try to force it a little bit with my work. So if it comes to me, I'll know that's because I worked hard. If it doesn't, then I know I got to keep working hard. It's just a matter of being mentally tough. I want to make shots. I want to be efficient. But I'm not right now. But I've got faith in myself and I'm positive that it'll turn around.”
Durant has made just 15-of-44 shots entering Thursday's Game 3 inside American Airlines Center. He's made only 3-of-12 3-pointers and has looked totally mystified thanks to the Mavs.
While Durant has struggled, it's been Russell Westbrook who has carried the Thunder to a 2-0 series lead. But if the Thunder has any plans of making quick work of the defending champs, Durant seemingly will have to find his stroke in Dallas.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he will continue to run the offense through Durant.
“He's getting good looks,” Brooks said. “(Shawn) Marion's doing a great job, but he's also getting great looks. It seems like he's missing the open ones and making some of the contested ones. Hopefully he can make the open ones. But he's fine. Kevin's a terrific player that works hard, that works on his game … That's the only way you can make shots, by keep doing what you've done to make them in the first place.”
After a second straight day of arriving at the Thunder's training facility early and staying late to put in extra work, a sweat-soaked, out-of-breath Durant sauntered over to the media Wednesday and addressed his shooting woes. Though he was noticeably glum, Durant tried to maintain a positive perspective.
“I'm getting the right amount of shots up and getting some good work in so I'll live with the results,” he said. “As long as I work hard I can live with whatever happens.”
To this point, what's ailed Durant is Dallas throwing the kitchen sink at him, with Marion leading the way. Delonte West, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd have also seen time on Durant and, thanks to Dallas' suffocating zone, so have three other defenders.
But in Game 1, when Durant went 10-of-27, much of his nightmarish night was his own doing. Twenty of his 27 field-goal attempts were jump shots. And while that sounds like a ton, it's important to know that nine of those were open looks.
In Game 2, when Durant made just 5-of-17 shots, the ratio was much worse. Amazingly, 16 of his shot attempts were jumpers. And unlike in Game 1, only four were open.
“I think coach has been drawing up some good plays, it's just a matter of me finishing,” Durant said.
Most of Durant's misses can be attributed to Marion. In head-to-head situations, Durant is just 4-of-16 against Marion. And only four of those attempts were open as Marion continually contested shots with his length and quick closeouts.
“I don't think it's just Marion,” Durant countered. “They're playing zone. Marion's a good defender, but it's not like he's guarding me the whole game.”
That's where Dallas' team defense has stepped up. Durant is 1-for-8 against West, 0-for-5 against Carter and 4-of-5 against Kidd.
Those numbers scream the Thunder has yet to discover and exploit sets in which Durant can excel against Dallas. Again, some of that has simply been a result of Durant missing open shots. Oklahoma City, however, has gotten away from what initially made Durant a deadly scorer: catch-and-shoot opportunities.
As Durant has evolved into a more all-around threat, Brooks has trusted him in many more situations. That has been reflected in these first two games.
Of Durant's 44 shot attempts, 10 have come out of isolations, eight have been spot-ups and six apiece have stemmed from post ups and transition. But only five of Durant's shot attempts have come off screens — the same amount of looks he's gotten as the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll.
Brooks confessed to Durant's expanding game being the reason he hasn't tried to get him going with more catch-and-shoot opportunities off of screens.
“He's posting up more,” Brooks explained. “We're giving him some post-up looks and some pick-and-rolls that he's improved on also.”
The problem is that only one of Durant's six attempts out of post-ups has been an open shot. Two were contested fadeaways. And even though Durant is 2-of-5 operating the pick-and-roll, only one of those looks has been open.
From an execution standpoint, success has come from Durant spotting up and coming off screens. Durant is just 2-of-8 on spot-ups but has had five open shots. And thanks to some annihilating (and at times illegal) picks by Kendrick Perkins, Durant has had three open looks off screens despite going 0-for-5 on those plays.
On everything else outside of transition, Marion has played superb man defense to force a miss, or the Mavs have gotten great help defense to stymie Durant. Drives to the basket by Durant are being defended strong at the rim, with sizable help in the form of Ian Mahinmi, Brendan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki sliding over to contest in and around the painted area.
It's all left Durant dazed and confused.
Durant admitted Wednesday that his mounting misses have been frustrating even though his team is up 2-0.
“Yeah, it's tough,” he said. “But I'm a strong player. I'm strong-minded.”
Now the Thunder needs him to revert to being a shot-maker.