Kevin Durant in tough MVP territory

In 2007, the "We Believe" Warriors and their relentless offense from the likes of Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson stole the show as Nowitzki went down. The style of this series has been different; it's largely been about Durant's issues.

In the past few years, Durant has made the transition from a player with potential to a player with infinite expectation -- and with that evolution comes a boulder that many great ones before him have struggled to carry.

Gone are the days when he would wear a backpack to the postgame news conferences in the playoffs like a college kid stopping by between classes. After the 2012 Western Conference finals, when he carried the Thunder to four straight wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Durant reached a new plateau where he had to deal with a new set of realities.

Last season, because of Russell Westbrook's injury, the demands were tabled and the Thunder's early exit was assigned an asterisk. Now Westbrook is healthy but also struggling. He's shooting just 16-of-55 in the past two games as he and Durant are once again in their uncomfortable tug-of-war over who leads the offense -- that old but undying thorn they have yet to truly overcome.

Durant is having issues solving the defense and battling inconsistency with his jumper. But clouding the matter further is that he's standing by as Westbrook and, at times, Reggie Jackson, hold the team's fate. In Game 4 it worked, as Jackson played the best game of his career, scoring 32 points when Durant went just 5-of-21 shooting.

But the overall image of the presumptive MVP standing to the side at the end of a close playoff game is not something that will age well.

"Sometimes you've got to be a decoy out there," Durant said. "And I'm fine with that."

He almost certainly doesn't feel that way, but this is the good face a star will often wear to avoid causing issues with his teammates. If Durant goes out that way, though, the regrets will linger with him all summer. He may not end up sleeping under the stars in the back of a Jeep at the bottom of the world like Nowitzki did, but wherever Durant lays his head, the failure will eat at him. As it would anyone.

Durant is no decoy. Decoys don't win the MVP and Durant is the MVP, the development of his all-around game and his consistency from November through April earning it over James. If the Thunder lose another game, that MVP trophy is forever going to feel cold to him. If it happens while he's standing in the corner, it will attach itself to him like a tattoo.

"We've got to impose our will from the beginning of the game," Durant said about Game 6. "We've got to be locked in."

Durant needs to take his own advice and impose his will and act like the MVP. It's almost too late.

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