Kevin Durant wasn't himself Sunday afternoon. That makes two days in a row. Durant certainly wasn't himself Saturday night.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, Durant made just seven of 22 shots in the Thunder's series-shifting loss to the James Garners.
Durant occasionally has games like that. And the next time you see him, be it shootaround or ballgame or big screen, he's smiling and congenial. Resolved and determined, but still full of gee-whiz charm. Same old KD.
Not Sunday at Thunder headquarters. Durant was somber. Gloomy. Angry, almost. Check that. Angry, definitely.
Mad at the media? Mad at himself? Mad at DeShawn Stevenson's defense, which is trying to go all Shane Battier and Tony Allen on the NBA scoring champion?
Head cold? Girl problems? Cable out at the new house in Gaillardia?
Whatever it is, Durant offered no clues.
“We just don't want to lose,” Durant said. “Just ready to play, man.”
It all makes for an interesting Game 4 Monday night downtown. Win, and the Thunder has turned this into a best-of-3 series. Lose, and the home crowd likely has seen the last of this lovable basketball team until sometime after this summer's league lockout.
And to win, the Thunder needs the Durant of Games 1 and 2, when he made 24 of 48 shots and averaged 32 points.
Scotty Brooks expressed confidence that Durant will be fine in Game 4. Even said Durant, despite his public countenance, often gets angry after a poor outing.
Anger is not something we've seen out of Durant. Not sure that we want to. Who knows what a good mean streak would do to Durant?
Could turn into him into the most unguardable monster the NBA ever has seen. Or could upset the delicate balance of talent, skill and personality that has made Durant the poster boy for all that is good about pro basketball.
Mad or mean or much ado about nothing, Durant vows to be more aggressive in Game 4.
Can't blame Durant for feeling persecuted. Finally free of those Memphis ruffians, Durant had two excellent games in Dallas only to return home and find trouble from Stevenson, primarily, with help from Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd.
“Plain and simple,” Durant said. “I figured it out. Be more aggressive. Be stronger with my catches and my drives.”
And his passes. Don't forget the passes. Dallas double-teamed more than ever in Game 3. Double-teamed not just Durant, but James Harden, too. The Mavs trapped on the wing and tried to make the OKC scorers give up the ball.
“We missed some opportunities to hit the bigs rolling” to the basket, Brooks said. “Held the ball a second too long. Double teams are a gamble. We have to take advantage by moving the ball quickly. Kevin and Russell (Westbrook) and James have to move the ball quicker.”
The Mavericks limited Durant's space. Got in his grill. Even when Durant had an occasional open look, he was off. You could tell on his first two shots his rhythm was off. Then Durant's third shot was an air-ball from 25 feet.
As Durant learned against Memphis, you've got to stand up to bullies.
“Be more aggressive,” Durant said, using short, declarative sentences that are not his usual speech pattern. “It's simple. Be more aggressive before and after I get the ball.
“We gotta be the first hitters. Gotta come out aggressive, no matter what. And that starts with me.”
Durant has gone from 40 points on 13-of-25 shooting in Game 1, to 24 points on 11-of-23 shooting in Game 2, to the Game 3 fiasco. That's similar to the Dirk Nowitzki trek for Dallas: 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting in Game 1, 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting in Game 2, 18 points on 7-of-21 shooting in Game 3.
If this trend holds, both Durant and Dirk might be deactivated if there's a Game 7. “I think that's playoff basketball,” Brooks said of the wide variance in performance. “It's a physical game.”
But Dallas can survive Nowitzki off nights better than the Thunder can handle Durant off nights. The Mavs have more secondary scorers.
The Thunder needs Durant to be his old self, in production if not personality, else wave good-bye to the boys Monday night.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.