By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant wore a 2012 Thunder practice T-shirt during Saturday’s practice. Coincidence or homage to the ’12 Western Conference finals when Oklahoma City rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the next four against the San Antonio Spurs?
“Definitely a coincidence,” Durant said, looking down at his shirt to verify the year printed on it. “This is on my laundry list today.”
Durant has a lot on his list these days. The MVP and his teammates have spent the last three days shaking off two horrific losses on the Spurs’ home floor. Durant is coming off a 15-point outing, his lowest point total in a playoff game since scoring 11 points in Game 6 against Memphis of the 2011 second-round series.
On Saturday, Durant put his team’s two-way dysfunction squarely on his shoulders.
“I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to dig deeper and find out what it is and how I can help my team out a little bit more by having to do more, and I own up to everything,” Durant said. “I own up to not playing well and own up to our team losing two in a row by that much, own up to it, and as it is, I’ve got to take it on the chin and learn from it and get better from it and try to put out a better game in Game 3.”
The Thunder might have athletic power forward Serge Ibaka back in the lineup for Sunday night’s game at Chesapeake Energy Arena (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Durant said the team is preparing as if Ibaka won’t play, and even if Ibaka does, it remains to be seen just how effective he can be 10 days after sustaining a Grade 2 left calf strain.
Durant said the Thunder are well-versed in being pushed into a postseason corner and have continually bounced back. OKC trailed Memphis 3-2, then won the next two games to take the series. In danger of falling behind 3-2 to the Clippers in Game 5, Durant and the Thunder reeled off seven consecutive points in the final minute to win the game and then win the series in six games.
However, losing by a combined 52 points to this humming Spurs team with weapons at all five positions, and with no guarantee that Ibaka will play, or be effective if he does, has many believing a Thunder comeback to be virtual impossibility.
Durant says they can do it. But how?
“Well, just embracing those moments and knowing that tough times build your character, and I think this is another step for us, another obstacle for us, and we’re going to see what we do, how we handle it,” Durant said. “That’s what being a man is all about, and that’s what a team is all about is going through tough times. It’s kind of easy to stay together when you’re sweeping a series, but to hit some adversity like we’ve done in this playoffs shows the type of team we are.
“We’ve always been a bounce-back type of team, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t just talk about it but go out there and do it.”