Oklahoma City’s 2012 season is on the brink. No team has ever come back to win the NBA Finals after trailing 3-1, which is where the Thunder find themselves entering Game 5 tonight in Miami.
It’s a precarious position in which no team wants find itself. However, one silver lining the Thunder have is the services of a player who sometimes appears born for just such moments.
Despite turning in subpar performances in Games 3 and 4, Kevin Durant still has a reputation as one who comes on strong in big moments.
“This year I am just happy for him because he is so humble,” former NBA coach Hubie Brown said. “And he can perform at such a high level, because not every one can shoot a high percentage behind the 3-point line, shoot a high percentage in the mid-range game and, if they get fouled, go to the line and shoot 88 to 90 percent when the game is on the line. That takes a special human being.”
While Durant is listed at 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, he’s believed closer to 6-11, which makes his skill set that much more amazing. According to NBA.com’s Sekou Smith, the league has seen players before who could shoot like Durant, but not with the same consistency.
“I don’t really have an accurate way of articulating just how unbelievably magnificent of a player he has become,” Smith said. “I watched him a little at Texas. I didn’t get a chance to lock in on him. But I had people telling me Durant was going to redefine the position. I was pushing back. What are we going to see from him that we haven’t seen already?
“Then you see him five years into this thing and it’s mindboggling for a guy his size to be such a dead-eye shooter.”
During the regular season, Durant was posting special numbers. In 66 games, he led the league in scoring for a third straight season with a 28-point average. He also shot a career-best 49.6 percent from the field, while averaging eight rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Even Durant’s adversaries admit to the difficulties of slowing him down.
“He has no weakness, “ Miami’s LeBron James said. “He can go right, he can go left, he can catch and shoot, he can go off the dribble, he can get to the rim, he can make floaters. He can post up and make shots. Those are the challenges and the problems he can create.”
But what impresses veteran’s of the game like Brown is Durant’s willingness to work and improve every day.
“You have to work at it, and this young guy at 23 years of age has not stopped working,” Brown said. “Sure, the three-years of back-to-back scoring titles; but more important, each year he comes back with something new. That’s what you can talk about with all the legendary guys … the top 10-15 guys that ever played.”
As great as Durant has been, there are still questions he had yet to answer. Before the Thunder left Oklahoma City for Miami, Smith wanted to see how Durant would lead his team on the road.
Game 3 and 4 didn’t go as Durant wanted. Both were losses in which he struggled in the fourth quarter, when his team needed him the most. He has one more chance to take that next step.
“If he puts that together with the fact that he’s just an absolute assassin,” Smith said, “never afraid to step up and take a big shot, you have an unstoppable guy.”
Oklahoma City needs him to be unstoppable tonight.