Time for K.D. to sink his teeth into Game 6

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Spurs-Thunder Game 6 preview

OKLAHOMA CITY – The MVP was asked if he’s put his imprint on the Western Conference finals.

“You know, it [is] a different series compared to the first two, whereas you’ve got to beat this team with a group of guys,” Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said. “Against the Clippers, me and Russell [Westbrook], we came out and scored 40 points a piece and [were] able to win, but this team makes you play with everybody. We knew that.

“You’ve got to do it on both ends of the floor. I feel like I put my imprint on the series. It may not be in the usual way that people expect me to go out and score 40 a game, but I think I put my imprint on the series.”

As Durant and the Thunder head into Saturday’s do-or-die Game 6 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), Durant is correct in that he doesn’t have to score 40 and he shouldn’t feel burdened to carry the team by dominating the ball. Against the precision and depth of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City needs a focused team effort to survive.

But if the Thunder wants to see June, they must have their leader thrust himself to the forefront of the effort. He must attack with an unrivaled determination and desire to win the game, to put forth a LeBron James foot-on-the-throat performance a la Friday night’s elimination of the Pacers. Afterward, budding Indiana star Paul George said of James: “He really just sunk his teeth all over this game.”

He needs to heed the catch-phrase of one of his two favorite players, Dirk Nowitzki, and “let it rip.” Nowitzki is the last player to win a Game 7 in San Antonio.

Durant seemingly hasn’t simply let it rip throughout this postseason. He’s left us to ponder at times if he’s even having fun. When momentum has turned against OKC, he’s become visibly frustrated. His body language has become unusually slumped, and after losses his postgame demeanor at the podium has shown shades of immaturity, a trait that seems to have replaced unbridled optimism from a player who just three weeks ago delivered one of the most impassioned MVP speeches of all time.

He’s even established a mantra to soften the blow of losing.

“I’ve learned not to let basketball take over my life,” Durant says.

But if he wants another shot at the championship, if he wants to knock the old-guard Spurs out of the way as he did in 2012, Durant must take over Game 6 with a steel-clad will to win.

“I’ve seen the best of the best not perform well statistically in the biggest games of the year, but their passion, their effort, just their desire to win was higher than everybody else’s,” said five-time champion Derek Fisher, his jersey No. 6 emblematic of his chase of a sixth ring. “And so Kevin doesn’t have to show up and score 40 points and have MVP numbers against them, but we need everybody to show up just with the desire to win that is stronger than our opponents’.

“We won’t necessarily have to ask for anything else but that.”

Durant has answered the call in back-against-the-wall moments in these playoffs. He scored 36 and 33 points in Games 6 and 7 against Memphis in the first round. In a must-win Game 6 on the road, Durant went to the free-throw line 15 times, a barometer of his determination to be the aggressor.

He hit huge baskets down the stretch of Game 5 against the Clippers when the Thunder flipped defeat into a pivotal victory with a dominant final three minutes. And he was excellent in the final three quarters of the Game 6 clincher in Los Angeles.

In this series, Durant’s offensive production — 24.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting (36.0 percent from 3-point range), 3.4 assists and 6.0 free-throw attempts — appears low, but those numbers are somewhat diluted by the blowout nature of all five games. There hasn’t been a fourth quarter that’s mattered and Durant has averaged just 6.7 minutes in the final period.

His true imprint on this series has come on the defensive end in the Thunder’s two wins. OKC is at its best when he’s crisp and alert, using his length and quickness to seal off entry passes into the paint yet still able to close out on 3-point shooters like Danny Green.

So now here he is at Saturday’s crossroads, the Thunder’s leader and the league’s MVP, one win away from forcing a Game 7 and a potential rematch against LeBron and the Heat; one loss away from going home unfulfilled.

“I’ve always been the guy that’s going to bring it, and that’s going to play to win,” Durant said. “So it’s a must‑win, and I can’t sit home and think about it every single minute of the day, but I’ve got to know how important it is.”

Game 6 is all about leaving his imprint, sinking his teeth into it and letting it rip.

The points will follow.

27 Comments

  1. RP says:

    I think the author and too many others have forgotten the brilliant season Durant had….and that without him they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Unless, of course, you think a Thunder without Durant and Westbrook would have gotten here. And for those saying that Durant looks tired and Westbrook is the only one with energy….well, duh. Durant had to play twice as hard for half the season while Westbrook was out…including up to the very end of the season when Westbrook was skipping every other game. Then…there’s the obvious contradiction. He does too much, doesn’t getting others involved and then….he doesn’t do enough. Give KD a break! To me the obvious, biggest problem is that the TEAM dynamic is dysfunctional since Westbrook’s return. The chemistry is gone. Westbrook is talented but he spends too much energy competing against Durant instead of the opposing team.

  2. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs play like MVP;s

  3. Pugs not drugs says:

    Back to the trailer park OKC fans!!!

  4. okc2014 says:

    I am expecting the MVP to show up tonight! Go Thunder!

    • Jason says:

      This wasn’t their year, but it was a start with KD’s MVP and Reggie and Serge’s improvements. In two to three years, maybe even next year, they’ll start their dynasty. As long as KD, Westbrook, and Ibaka are all on board and they have a bench. Adams is also gonna kill it.

    • RP says:

      He led the team (and the league) in points and the team in rebounds (why?). He may have been overshadowed by the flashier Westbrook but he showed up in crunchtime and won some big games for them. Considering these series where the strategy was to double/triple team Durant and allow Westbrook to shoot I think he certainly has shown up.

  5. Eagle eggs says:

    Spurs will break those teeth before he sinks them in.

  6. okcDoke2014 says:

    This game will be tight and either team could win. If it goes to game 7, Spurs will take it !

    • SharpieOne says:

      So if it goes to 7 the Spurs win, however if it doesn’t go to 7 the Spurs still win. The game was definitely a fun one.

  7. Game Time says:

    No team is “organic” because they all in someway trade, or signed free agents. Some teams may be more “organic” than others but there is not one team in the NBA that consist of players who all have never played elsewhere in the NBA.

    Personally I see that term as just a pretentious word that people use to make themselves feel that their team is somehow better (outside of the game) than others.

  8. Arnav Sethi says:

    Kevin duarnt is the best player ever to live he will come through with westbrook and ibaka and we will win the series!!!!
    GO THUNDER!!! BLEED BLUE AND ORANGE!!!!!

  9. Xfade says:

    Will be a good game but the Spurs won’t let it go to 7. Pop has pulled their collective minds and made it so. Haha. Seriously I hope they win. Tim deserves that 5th ring.

    • TMac says:

      And others don’t deserve a ring?
      Kevin Durant deserves a ring just as much as Tim Duncan deserves his 5th…..however, it is all about how wants it the most and who will earn it.

      • TMac says:

        *who wants it the most*

      • 36yrfan says:

        …..maybe after 4 Titles and five trips to the finals…AND after 17yrs of excellence …….THEN he will “Deserve” a ring…… good luck….

  10. Danielle says:

    I would like OKC to win but think the Spurs will take it in 7. Spurs have better ball movement and more contributors. They will be a better matchup against the Heat. I love me some KD, but haven’t seen that ‘will to win’ mentality which is needed to win in San Antonio.

  11. Max says:

    KD against Memphis, Did he not do that without the Untamed Russell Westbrook? YA!

  12. Bruiser Brody says:

    MVP awards are curses for the most part. They are destined to loose once they win theat award. Only three Mvps have gone to win it all. Tim is one.

  13. Aram says:

    KD is the MVP currently and great expectations are all over the air. That is normal. Great things are expected from great people. Hope he steps up. He’s the scoring champion and MVP. MVP should deserve a title shot.

  14. #KD35 says:

    First off, I have to say that it’s not okay for the media to put so much pressure on the Thunder, especially Durant, but I guess that’s just how it works these days, creating unnecessary drama. Look, the Thunder have always answered the call until now, whether vs Memphis or the Clippers. And even in these West Finals, being down 0-2, they fought their ways back right into it. They always had this “Our back are against the wall” – mentality. Hence, I really don’t understand why Durant must put his imprint on this game. Basically the author is saying that he must dominate this game in terms of scoring, etc. and turn the momentum in the favor of the Thunder. Honestly, of course Durant has to play well in order for OKC to win, that’s a no-brainer. But Durant is truly correct here, if he goes on a killing spree in terms of scoring, that won’t guarantee a win at all. He’s minted these games with his defense, his effort and simply with the mentality that the Thunder will do it as a collective group. Even Derek Fisher said it in his quote, they just need to make a great effort and just give it their all, which I’m sure they will do. I hope they block out all the negativity coming from all over the place.

    Even though I do believe that eventually San Antonio will win it, whether in 6 or 7, I don’t think the Thunder will have an equal chance of winning the Finals against the Heat like the Spurs have, or actually have had in last years Finals, but eventually blew it, even though they really deserved it. I’m not saying the Thunder are to inexperienced, but that, as with Miami, they heavily rely ond KD and Russel Westbrook. San Antonio’s culture is pretty much the definition of what basketball is, a game that is played collectively as a team. I mean they’re just putting on a clinic every time when they execute, it’s genuinely beautiful to watch them execute/play. May the best win this series and put themselves in the position to compete in the 2014 Finals. I’m already amped up! :D

    • michelle juliet says:

      @3kd35 i really respect your comment. i am a die hard spurs fan, and i have said it time and time before if thunder had a 3rd element to making them a “TEAM” then they could accomplish a championship. if there is any time in the west that should advance over the spurs i would want it to be OKC, i admire KD very much and would love for him to win a championship. AND YOU ARE VERY CORRECT THE SPURS ARE A BIGGER THREAT TO THE HEAT. team basketball is needed in the finals and the heat have replicated what the spurs have created. only thing is we built our dynasty from scratch and did not have to make crazy payouts for SUPERSTARS, we are organic and should be respected by all baskeball fans. kudos and may the best team win. even if that means okc/ or spurs fall to the HEAT, which i really hope not, i can’t stand those players egos… well really i have no issue with D. WADE i actually think he seems really legit, other than his tacky flamboyant clothes, i respect him. THANKS FOR THE SMART AND HONEST COMMENTS.

      PEACE FROM TEXAS!

      • roger says:

        spurs > okc

        (skills > athleticism)

      • Majk says:

        #KD35 & Michelle … you’re right in some points, but when it comes to the Heat, you’re just the typical “hyped-by-the-popular-belief-from-2010″ type of guys.
        Miami put together a team full of professionals. They work hard and they respect their opponents. They don’t act stupid and they don’t play dirty (unless their opponents and officials “demand” that kind of play, e.g., Bulls in particular and a little less Pacers and Celtics/Nets).
        Stop hating on LBJ just cos of his DECISION – he did it cos media wanted it. But at the end of the day, he raised quite some money for charities.
        Looking (in details) across his 11-year NBA carer, he’s one of a very, very few true roll models for the youth. His biggest “mistake” (if you can call it that) was the damn decision interview.

        As for Miami… they are doing it in a lot of ways similar to the Spurs. Hardworking group of guys – a team that actually have more than 7 players on whom coach can count during the play-offs. Just cos their management managed to get James, Wade and Bosh together, it doesn’t mean anything, but a great success for the GM at that point. Not all players can co-exist. Not all coaches can manage 3 superstars (+ a few extra “difficult” players). Heat were lucky and good enough to have done all of that. All 4 years at least NBA finals? Miami Heat Dynasty. Don’t hate it, enjoy it!

      • TMac says:

        The Heat have replicated what the Spurs have created?? Uhh, no.

      • 36yrfan says:

        ….love how you say that MAJK…….”….put together”….. a team…………..you mean bought , right……comprised of any ringchaser they could afford….. what a “TEAM”……..lol………….but the ‘allstars’ have met their match…….

      • 36yrfan says:

        ….”ROLE MODEL” ???? Are you kidding …You got kids??? You want kids idolizing a guy who sprints across court when he gets what he ‘believes’ to be a bad call??? A guy who interviews like a spoiled little boy when he loses?? Someone who defines the “go for the glory” at any cost type of attitude……REALLY !!! There ARE role models in sports …but the high school kid who got a shoe contract is NOT one of them…………….great player/athlete …YES……ROLE MODEL …..NO !!