Kendrick Perkins sprung Kevin Durant free for an open 17-foot shot that would have broken a tie with little more than three minutes left in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday. The shot missed.
Durant walked over to Perkins and said, “I ain't gonna miss no more.”
Perk believed him. So did all his Thunder teammates and anyone else who's been paying attention to Durant in recent years.
Count Scotty Brooks in that crowd. Which is why, with Game 1 on the line in what promises to be a rousing series with Memphis, Foreman Scotty did what few NBA coaches are willing to do. He let his players play.
No timeout. No letting the Grizzlies set up their ferocious defense. No risking anything that would take the ball out of Durant's hands.
Good things happen to the Thunder when the game's on the line and the ball's in Durant's hands. And the ball was in Durant's hands after Derek Fisher poked it away from Memphis' Mike Conley with 18 seconds left and the Grizzlies up one point.
“KD lives for those type of moments,” Perkins said. “He's just got a gift.”
Durant dribbled upcourt as Tayshaun Prince, a quality defender, squared up but also knew his reinforcements weren't set behind him.
Durant feigned a drive, then rose for a 19-footer. Swish. The Thunder led by one with 11.1 seconds left and held on for a 93-91 victory.
Good for Durant. And good for Brooks, who didn't muddy up the opportunity. He did what the best coaches do. Prepare their players to play, then get out of the way.
“We made a good defensive play, and they have such a great team defense, and I just wanted to get it up the floor as quick as possible and find a shot,” Durant said. “That was the only shot I could find, and by the grace of God it went in.”
NBA researchers long have proved that calling a timeout in late-game situations shifts the advantage to the defense. But that hasn't stopped coaches from routinely calling timeout to set up a scoring play.