OKC Thunder: Small defenders have been troublesome for Kevin Durant

What we witnessed Sunday was nothing new. It’s an issue that dates back to at least the 2011 playoffs and one that has, at times, managed to disrupt the entire Thunder offense.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: May 12, 2014 at 11:41 pm •  Published: May 12, 2014

Kevin Durant denied it, and Chris Paul downplayed it.

Doc Rivers dismissed it, and Scott Brooks didn’t address it before getting another look the next day.

Of course, it was all a dog and pony show, a collective attempt to avoid disparaging the league’s Most Valuable Player or fueling him for the remainder of the Western Conference semifinals.

But after Paul clamped down on Durant in the fourth quarter and spurred his Los Angeles Clippers to a pivotal comeback win in Game 4, no one needed to explain what was understood. Durant had again struggled against a smaller defender.

What we witnessed Sunday was nothing new. It’s an issue that dates back to at least the 2011 playoffs and one that has, at times, managed to disrupt the entire Thunder offense.

Paul joined Tony Allen, Jason Kidd and Mario Chalmers as players who have flustered Durant in the playoffs. Others have done the same in spurts in the regular season.

Rivers, the Clippers coach, said he resorted to the unconventional defensive scheme out of desperation and claimed he doesn’t plan on reverting to the same strategy as this series snakes on with Game 5 on Tuesday night. But the truth is it’s long been one of the more effective counters for the league’s most lethal scorer.

The reasons are plenty. Smaller defenders are able to use their shorter stature and quick hands to take away Durant’s dribble and prevent his driving ability. Double teams are frequently being sent at Durant, keeping him playing against multiple defenders. And Durant has yet to commit to using his size advantage in the post.

When combined, it’s turned Durant from a deadly scoring threat into a more indecisive and turnover-prone player.

Take Sunday’s fourth quarter, for example. Paul was Durant’s primary defender on seven possessions in the period. The Clippers doubled Durant on four of those. Durant went 0-for-1 with two turnovers in those instances.

A day later, Durant was just as defiant as he was following Sunday’s game about Paul’s defensive impact.

“Everybody keep saying it was just Paul guarding me,” Durant said. “It wasn’t just Paul. I mean, he’s physical. He’s smaller than me, of course, so it’s harder when little guys get up under you. But they’re not just going to let Chris Paul play me one-on-one. That’s a team game. Basically, they’ve got three guys watching me. They had a guy behind me. And when I caught it, they double teamed as soon as I caught it. And when they didn’t double team I scored.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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