Durant and Thunder face uphill battle


OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant looked tired.

He walked slowly over to the assembled media Friday afternoon, wearing socks and sandals, a "KD 35 shirt," and a backward hat that said "Tackma," which apparently is a brand I previously didn't know existed.

He wiggled his way in between the microphones and tripods, then waited for the first question.

You had this morning to look at the film. What is going to be the key heading into Game 6 for you all?

He lifted his eyes, cleared his throat and started his answer.

"Just being in the right spots on defense," he said, pausing as if to consider whether he wanted to just stop there, "... and helping each other out a little bit more than we did the last game."

It sounded as if Durant had just woken up. His voice was low, his commitment to this media session waning. Maybe he wasn't tired but just tired of us. Or maybe, with another elimination game facing him along with the uphill climb of beating the Spurs twice, he was just trying to maintain a cold focus.

This postseason has been a series of ridiculous highs and lows for the Thunder, as Durant went from being dogged nonstop by Tony Allen to winning an MVP to watching his team get blown out by 52 points without Serge Ibaka to Ibaka returning to help even the series to another deflating 28-point humiliation. Coming off Thursday's embarrassment in San Antonio with the Thunder erasing all momentum and confidence they previously had, you might assume Durant stewed over that for the next 24 hours. But he has let it go. He's moving on.

"I've learned not to let basketball take over my life, so when I go home I try to release and just enjoy my life, just get away from it, but also in the back of my mind just get ready for the next game," Durant said. "It was frustrating last night going on, but we have to look at the grand scheme of things and know that we've got another opportunity. I'm excited about that."

With an MVP trophy comes great perceived responsibility, a burden to save your team when it can't save itself. Durant rose to that occasion before he was officially handed his trophy, scoring 36 in a must-win Game 6 in Memphis. He shook off a lot of noise to do it -- "Mr. Unreliable," most notably -- finding an inner peace. He later admitted to finding some motivation from the negativity, but that might've just been after the fact. Durant spent this entire season trying to tell himself that basketball isn't the most important thing in his life, that growing as a man is what really mattered. He's still just 25 -- which is ridiculous -- and through the experiences that have built up the past several years, he has learned what to dwell on and what to let go of.

"I have friends and family that make sure I don't go crazy, just do stuff that makes me happy and just, like I said, try not to always think about it," he said. "The mind is a powerful thing. When you think positive thoughts and thoughts that it's going to move forward, like I said, to get your mind off it, it helps, also. Just having positive people around me not always criticizing me helps."

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