Four OT games later, Durant at a loss

Had Durant hit the ensuing free throw, this wouldn't matter, and maybe it doesn't anyway, but it sure seemed to stick in the craw, as the folks in Oklahoma like to say.

"I was just trying to stay focused and knock the free throw down; unfortunately I didn't," Durant said. "I don't know what happened, but I've got to make that free throw."

That's a lot of words to describe but a sliver of what was another impossibly tight game. Durant comes off a bit as the goat with the missed free throw and a missed 3-pointer moments later before Ibaka's tip-in attempt.

That last try was an ultra challenge, as both Allen and Marc Gasol flared out to interrupt Durant and he forced a high floater that might have gone 20 feet above the court. As fate would have it, had he just shot it 18 feet high the Ibaka tip-in might have counted.

But that was not what was confounding. What continues to dog Durant is a horribly timed slump, often taken out of the game by his own team.

One facet is Westbrook. There might not be a more confounding player in the league. He is the definition of a wild card. He leaves teammates and fans an emotional wreck with his wild shots, highly questionable decisions and breathtaking playmaking.

He had a triple-double in this game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. He also had a brilliant steal, picking Conley's pocket in the final minute of the fourth quarter and scoring a tying basket with four seconds left to force overtime.

He also took 31 shots, missing 21 of them, and it seemed like all of them were a bad idea. He sure does make some, but there's no missing the impression that the Grizzlies are giving each other low fives under the bench every time Westbrook rises up and leaves Durant empty-handed. They will accept Westbrook's occasional greatness, a trade-off if it means Durant can't act like the MVP.

Meanwhile, Thunder coach Scott Brooks has elected to take the ball out of Durant's hands and put it into Reggie Jackson's. After Durant hit a 3-pointer to complete a 27-6 run and erase a 20-point Grizzlies lead in the fourth quarter, he didn't touch the ball for seven consecutive possessions. Often he just stood in the corner. This was by design.

"We've got some plays where he's got to space the floor," Brooks said. "We were giving Reggie some opportunities. We did that the game before and were able to get into the paint and get some opportunities. They're doing a good job of guarding him."

Jackson had 32 points and totally bailed out the Thunder in Game 4 in Memphis, sometimes because Durant pulled the defense away. Brooks has his reasons, but this is a stunning development when the most dominant offensive player the league has seen since Michael Jordan is used as a decoy over and over in the fourth quarter of make-or-break playoff games.

It's virtually an admission that they can't get Durant open, often because of Allen's tenacity or because he can't make plays to get open against the Grizzlies' defense. More perplexing, Durant seems to be willing to accept this proposition with a season hanging in the balance.

"Sometimes you've got to be a decoy out there, and I'm fine with that," Durant said. "Once the ball comes my way, I have to be ready and be aggressive when I touch it. If I want the ball, I've got to go rebound it and create something."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...