Kevin Durant is no different than the rest of us.
Well, at least not when it comes to his shooting slump.
Like most basketball observers, Durant’s also believes it’s only a matter before he busts out of it.
“No doubt,” he said. “I’m always confident in myself. I think I’m getting good looks. It’s a few in the fourth quarter I wish I could shoot again because they look so good. They were in and out of the rim. But that’s the name of the game sometimes. Before a breakthrough, you always have to go through a tough, tough period.”
Durant’s next chance to find light at the end of the tunnel comes Tuesday night in Game 5 against Memphis. He’s had two days to sit and stew over what’s gone wrong in the last three games, contests in which he’s combined to shoot 35.5 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
His worst shooting series since his playoff debut against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 can be attributed to a mix between smothering defense by Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, some questionable shot selection and, of all things, overthinking.
“I think I’m not disciplined enough in my shot,” Durant said. “I’m either pulling it back too quick or shooting to quick or worried about a guy coming behind trying to block a shot. I just got to focus in on the rim and on my shot and everything else will take care of itself.”
It’s not beyond reason to think fatigue also could be in play.
Durant has averaged 46.8 minutes in this grueling series against Memphis. Remember, too, that Durant averaged 39.9 minutes in his final eight regular season games, topping 40 minutes in six of those.
But sometimes shots simply don’t drop.
“Kevin had great shots (in Game 4),” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The 21 shots, I counted, I thought 18 shots were really good. Three of the other shots, if he was having a better shooting night, those would have been decent shots.
“But we can’t discount Tony Allen. He’s a good defender. He knows his role and he wants to do it well. But I like the shots that Kevin did get. He got shots all over the floor. That’s one of the things we wanted him to have going into that game last game, spread his touches around the floor.”
While he has attacked from various spots, it’s undeniable that Durant also has settled for jump shots in this series. He’s taken more 3-pointers on average (8.5) than free throws (8.3) in these first four games. Only 33 of his 101 shots attempts have come within 10 feet. Fifty-one of his looks have come from 15 feet and beyond. Thirty-four of those have been 3-pointers.
The combination has resulted in Durant shooting just 39 percent from the floor in this series, his lowest rate since connecting on just 35 percent of his shots against the Lakers in the first round of the 2010 postseason. This year’s 26.5 percent postseason clip from 3-point range is currently a career low from that distance.
To shake this slump, Durant said he’s tuning out the noise to remain confident. He’s staying off of social media websites and avoiding stories in the traditional media.
“Put in the work and trust in the work and keep my mind right. That’s all it is to it,” Durant said. “If I have another bad shooting night, just stay positive with it and try to find my way out of it and not think about it a lot.”
Durant and Thunder assistant coach Brian Keefe look to baseball in times like these. They recite a saying, “162,” as a reminder of how diligent Durant must continue to be.
“That’s how many days a baseball player comes in every single day and does his work, from batting practice to field work to whatever,” Durant said. “He does his work for 162 days. So that’s what we try to emphasize here…It’s the same stuff over and over again. Keep working. Trust in the process and it’ll get better.”