Kevin Durant knew full well what he had in sidekick Russell Westbrook.
Still, that hasn't stopped Westbrook's absence from making Durant's heart grow fonder for his All-Star point guard.
Durant on Monday was asked what he's learned about himself while playing without the injured Westbrook.
“That we need him,” Durant said. “We miss him.”
Durant entered Game 4 against Memphis averaging 34 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.9 blocked shots in seven games without Westbrook, who recently underwent season-ending knee surgery. But the Thunder was 3-4 in those games.
“Guys have got to step up now,” Durant said. “I think I've taken more of a load of scoring and facilitating and rebounding. But of course when you have your All-Star out we miss him. But it's no excuse. We still got to get the job done.”
Durant went on to downplay his performance when asked if he's surprised himself at how much he's been able to raise his level of play.
“What have I done? We're down 2-1,” Durant said before the game. “In the playoffs, that don't ever really matter. It's about wins and losses. We're down 2-1. I've got to figure out a way to help us out a little more. I always can do more.”
IBAKA EARNS FIRST-TEAM ALL-DEFENSE
For the second straight season, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, the league announced Monday.
Ibaka led the NBA with 3.03 blocks per game this season. With 242 total blocked shots, Ibaka joined Dikembe Mutombo (1994-98) as the only player to lead the league in blocked shots for three straight seasons.
The Thunder averaged a league-best 7.61 blocks this season, the second straight season the team led the league.
Ibaka was joined on the first team by Miami's LeBron James, New York's Tyson Chandler, Chicago's Joakim Noah, Memphis' Tony Allen and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul.
The Thunder scored 23 fast break points in Game 3 as the team made a concerted effort to get more easy baskets in transition.
In the first two games against the Grizzlies, the Thunder scored just six and seven points, respectively, in transition.
By halftime Monday, the Thunder had eight fast break points.
“We are definitely a transition team,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We've been that way all season and we want to continue. I know we're a little different now, but we still want to stay with our core principles. That's attacking when there's opportunities, but also just continue to have good execution in the half-court.”
COLLISON NOT CONCERNED ABOUT FOUL TROUBLE
In the first three games against the Grizzlies, forward Nick Collison was whistled for 15 total fouls. He fouled out in 15 minutes in Game 2 and picked up five in 14 minutes in Game 3.
It's a trend that played a role in limiting Collison's minutes going into Game 4 on Monday night.
“I'm not too concerned with the fouls,” Collison said. “I want to try to avoid bad fouls. I think certain times when you're trying to make a play the officials will call fouls. So I guess the biggest thing is try to avoid the ones going for a loose ball and things that aren't really helping the team out. I'd love to not be in foul trouble, of course. But I'm not going to change too much on how I'm playing.”
GRIZZLIES COACH CALLS IT QUITS
Grizzlies assistant coach Barry Hecker left the team during the Western Conference semifinal against the Thunder for what Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said is a “personal matter.”
Hollins said after the team's shootaround Monday morning that Hecker's departure is “nothing that's public consumption.”
Hecker was with the Grizzlies for their Game 2 win in Oklahoma City but was not with the team in Memphis for their Game 3 win Saturday night. Team officials said only that Hecker is no longer with the Grizzlies.
Hecker had been on Hollins' staff in Memphis the past five seasons.
HOLLINS GIGS RANDOLPH
Hollins told star forward Zach Randolph, who is not known for his defense, that Randolph had made honorable mention on the NBA's all-defense team.
“I did?” Randolph enthusiastically responded, according to Hollins.
No, the coach said, “I'm just kidding.”
But three Grizzlies did make the squad. Tony Allen was first team; Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were second team.
“It says we're a good defensive team,” Hollins said.
Ironically, Gasol was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, an award voted on by media. Coaches vote for the all-defense team.
“I guess coaches see something different,” Hollins said.
POSSIBLE START TIMES FOR GAME 6 ANNOUNCED
Game 6 of the Thunder-Grizzlies series has been scheduled to be played either at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., the league announced Monday.
If the Chicago-Miami series extends to six games, the Thunder would play Game 6 at 6 p.m. on ESPN. If the Chicago-Miami series does not extend to six games, the Thunder would play Game 6 at 7 p.m.