Finally, Kevin Durant got the ball in crunch time for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Denver Nuggets. The result? Pure, unadulterated basketball nirvana. Durant scored 14 points in the final three and a half minutes and 41 for the game as the Thunder rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat the Nuggets and end that series in five games.
In a way, it's a sign that Durant needs to make all the late-game decisions every single game for the Thunder. Those who scoffed at Russell Westbrook's rogue act in Game 4 undoubtedly have more ammunition to bash the Thunder point guard now. See! Look what happens when Durant gets the ball!
That's too easy for me, though. Honestly, I think Durant showed growth as a crunch-time performer on Wednesday. Part of the problem with Durant late in games is that he's become a little passive this season. Last year, when the starpower of Westbrook wasn't quite where it was now, Durant took it upon himself to demand the ball. This year, though, that hasn't happened. Durant has been stymied by aggressive, physical defense, and he's given up the ball too often at the slightest hint of pressure.
Wednesday night's performance was a true joy, then, because we didn't see any of those negative characteristics. Sure, Durant shot all jumpers, and eventually, he'll need to be better at getting to the rim. But every shot he hit was as a result of a forceful decision. He didn't wait for the Nuggets to set up their defense on him; he attacked them before they could. When he does that, he's unstoppable, given his size and shooting ability. When he doesn't? He makes himself mortal.
Going forward, Durant will need that switch to be on permanently when his team needs it to be. No more deferring to Westbrook. It's time for the Durantula to strike.