There's no doubting that Kevin Durant can score, but it took some convincing for the NBA's scoring champion to believe that he could really impact a game when his shots weren't going in.
But midway through last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder forward really bought into all the aspects of the game outside racking up points.
By Game 3 of the Thunder’s first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Durant had developed enough on the defensive end that he was asking to guard Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter. He limited Bryant to 2-for-10 shooting while rediscovering his offense to lead the Thunder to a 101-96 win Thursday.
Durant shied away from the sudden defensive accolades leading up to Game 4 tonight.
“Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world, and some of those shots he missed just because he missed. Maybe two or three of the shots I made him miss,” said Durant, who leaped to swat away one Bryant jumper during Oklahoma City’s decisive 10-2 run.
The 6-foot-6 Bryant gives up nearly half a foot to Durant, who’s listed conservatively at 6-9.
“He’s long. He’s 7 feet. I don’t know that he wants to admit that he’s 7 feet but he’s 7 foot,” Bryant said. “He has great agility, great mobility and caught us all by surprise a little bit.”
Coach Scott Brooks said he’ll continue to rotate defenders against Bryant. Thabo Sefolosha, the OKC stopper, has logged the most minutes against Bryant. Forward Jeff Green and reserve James Harden have also guarded him.
Despite complaints, commissioner David Stern wasn’t backing down: Coaches, he said, need to “comply with the rules.” This part was unspoken: Or else. On Thursday, Stern said coaches criticizing league policies or referees sends “very bad messaging” to the league’s fans and needs to come to a quick halt. In one week, Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace, Magic forward Matt Barnes, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and Lakers coach Phil Jackson were fined for comments, mostly about foul calls. ... Magic forward Rashard Lewis has a sprained left ankle but says he should be fine for Game 3 against Charlotte today. Lewis said he came down sideways on the ankle in Game 2 against the Bobcats. ... Patrick Patterson believes his three years at Kentucky were enough, adding he will enter the NBA draft and skip his senior season. ... A person familiar with negotiations says Hornets sale talks between George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest have reached an “impasse” and that Shinn now wants to speak with other possible buyers. Shinn seeks to deal with investors who want to keep the Hornets in New Orleans.