So the incredible regular season / post season streak continues for the Spurs (now at 20 wins), and the Thunder are in a 0-2 hole needing to win four of the next five. Doesn’t sound very likely does it?
While there’s no moral victories in the playoffs, the Thunder can take something away from this game. The fact the Spurs were shooting 63 percent from the field at one stage in the third quarter (and 64 percent from long range!) and lead by as many as 22, yet OKC still absolutely had a chance to win it. With five minutes left they were only down 6 lead by a furious James Harden rally. This Thunder team never dies. Any other team would have been blown out by 30+ points given how well the Spurs played today. But like I said, no moral victories.
3 votes – Tony Parker. Tony Parker was simply off the charts. If you can’t remember the last time a player scored 30 points, and dished 8 assists while shooting 75% from the field, I’ll forgive you, because it hasn’t happened since Kevin Johnson did it in 1995. Parker is being extremely aggressive, which is so key for the Spurs given how dangerous Westbrook can be if he’s not occupied on the defensive end. Parker is keeping him occupied, and then some. One of the best games I’ve ever seen Tony play.
2 votes – Manu Ginobili. Typical Manu game here. Deadly efficient, huge spark off the bench, and the real reason I want to give him 2 votes is for the three-pointer he hit with less than two minutes left in the fourth. Man, that was a back breaker. That killed the Thunder. Because that was the point I thought the comeback might happen. Fisher hit a big three, the Spurs turned it over at the other end, and then Durant finally scored to cut the margin to 7 (he’d been quiet up to that point). You could feel a bit of a momentum shift once Durant scored. Manu misses that three and the Thunder cut it to 4 or 5 and the game really tightens up. As it was, he nailed it, the game was over. Cold.
1 vote – James Harden. Lead the fourth quarter rally and shot an insane 10-13 from the field. In fact, he didn’t miss a single shot in the fourth quarter. He was aggressive and making plays and tried to impose his will on the game. It almost worked. But while watching Harden go about his work in the fourth, I couldn’t help but wonder why Durant was playing the same way. I was thinking the same thing at the end of Game 1 as well. It’s hard for me to articulate this because I love KD, but I’ll just go out and say it: for a supposed MVP candidate and someone often anointed as the best scorer in the game, Kevin Durant doesn’t impose his will on a game as much as he should.
He is sometimes too passive and too unselfish for his own good. That will never show up in the box score, and he’s playing with enough talented players to cover it up at times. But I don’t think the Thunder win a championship unless KD plays with a bit more ego, a bit more entitlement. Look at the shot he made to kill off the Lakers in Game 4 of that series. Clock running down, staring the defender in the face, three feet behind the arc, and he rises up to take what was quite frankly, a horrible basketball shot. Durant admitted it himself after the game. But great players will take and make those kind of shots, because they believe they’re the best option, even when they’re not.
So I know Durant can play with that mindset, but he hasn’t demonstrated enough of it in this series. He hasn’t gone through any 5-minute “get the fuck out of the way and give me the ball” stretches that MJ, Kobe and even LeBron command at times. It’s way to early to call this series over, but I’m really looking at KD to step up when they take it back home.
It’s the next evolution of Kevin Durant, and I think we all want to see it.