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Thunder-Rockets: For Kevin Durant, a different kind of clutch

COMMENTARY — The Oklahoma City superstar accustomed to delivering big shots made some many plays down the stretch, his big shot got lost in the shuffle. The Thunder needed everything it got from Kevin Durant to hold off Houston.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 24, 2013

Kevin Durant scored 15 first-quarter points, made six of 11 shots and looked like he was headed for an historic night.

Historic? No. Heroic? Yes.

Durant dominated the final 200 seconds of a game that came perilously close to a huge upset, allowing the Thunder to survive the Rockets 105-102 Wednesday night and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

This series got awfully interesting as the Rockets went all pesty with a small lineup that gave the Thunder fits. Interesting, too, was how the Thunder survived.

With a blocked shot not from Serge Ibaka, but from Durant.

With a post defensive stop not from Kendrick Perkins, but from Durant.

With three assists in the final 3:10, after the Rockets had taken a 95-91 lead, not from Russell Westbrook, but from Durant.

And with a dead-eye, go-ahead 28-foot shot, well, OK, that was from Durant with 2:28 left.

Such was Durant's impact in crunch time, that 3-point long ball, which put the Thunder ahead for good, was barely a post-game topic of conversation.

Durant's teammates talked about his passes. Durant's opponents talked about his blocked shot. Durant was partial to the block himself.

Ahead 95-93 after an Ibaka basket (off a nifty Durant pass into the paint), the Rockets' James Harden hurried the ball upcourt and hit Chandler Parsons with a pass that produced a layup.

But Durant swooped in, rejected the shot, kept it in bounds and set up Westbrook foul shots that forged a 95-95 tie.

“Hell of a block,” said Rocket coach Kevin McHale. “That would have been a big play.”

It was a big play. The other way. Durant called it his favorite play of the many he made in the last few minutes.

“He had a wide open layup, I just tried to do my best,” Durant said. “He's such a good finisher, I thought he would go up and under. But he put it in my face and I was able to get it. That got us going a little bit.”

I'll say. Durant nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer, then bodied up against 7-foot Rocket center Omer Asik, who had an easy shot near the basket that bounced off.

Finally, against a Houston zone defense that had flummoxed the Thunder down the stretch, Durant made passes to open teammates on successive possessions. First, Thabo Sefolosha nailed a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 101-97 lead, then Ibaka drilled an 18-footer that made it 103-98.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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