“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.