In three games, Durant is averaging 33 points on 50 percent shooting. He's also averaging 12 rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block per game against Memphis. As Durant has taken on more responsibility since Russell Westbrook's injury and several of Oklahoma City's key rotation players have struggled in the playoffs, the makeup of the team reminds at least one writer of LeBron James' early years.
"Without a second dependable scorer, Oklahoma City's offense looks broken, disjointed and one-dimensional," wrote Sean Highkin of USA Today. "It recalls LeBron James' last several years in Cleveland, when he dragged several mediocre Cavaliers teams deep into the playoffs almost singlehandedly."
One-dimensional or not, as Highkin notes, James was able to take those Cleveland teams on impressive playoff runs, including a NBA Finals appearance and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Could Durant lead the Thunder to a similar feat? It's certainly possible despite the team trailing 2-1.
The Grizzlies have not shot well in the series, hitting 43, 42 and 40 percent respectively in the three games. Zach Randolph, the team's leading scorer in the regular season, has struggled offensively in the series, shooting just 17-for-40. And Oklahoma City's losses were both close games that, with a break here or there, the Thunder would've had chances to win late.
The close nature of these games actually fits into one of Durant's greatest strengths as a player -- his ability to hit big shots late.
"It'd be hard to come up with a list of guys you'd want taking a last second shot over Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher," writes Thunder blog Welcome to Loud City. "Both of these guys are just unbelievable at hitting shots when it really matters, and that's going to matter in this series. Granted, Kevin Durant has seen his performance suffer when he plays for too many minutes, but he's overcome the exhaustion before."
In two straight losses, despite playing poorly, the Thunder have done nearly enough to give Durant those last-second opportunities. If Oklahoma City continues keeping games close, it's possible Durant can do even more than he already has by winning a game late.
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