Kevin Durant has been asked to do everything for the Oklahoma City Thunder since Russell Westbrook went down with his injury.
For the most part, Durant has exceeded any expectations we could have had of him doing this. He’s averaging 33.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 44.7 minutes per game since Westbrook’s injury.
But these last few games against the Grizzlies, Durant appears to be wearing down.
The Thunder fell behind 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals last night as they lost to the Grizzlies 103-97 in overtime. Durant played 48 minutes including the entire second half and overtime and shot 10-for-27 from the field.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Durant scored just five points.
Durant may physically be able to handle playing this amount of minutes and at times he can still appear like it doesn’t faze him but there is simply no reason not to buy him at least a little rest. It’s the mental fatigue that seems to be getting to Durant more than anything as Memphis has made him work harder than ever to get shots and get open.
During the regular season, Durant’s normal rest came with around three minutes to go in the first and third quarters. Then he would either start the next quarter or come in shortly after it started. This way he was still able to play 40-plus minutes when need be and the Thunder wouldn’t have to play lineups with Durant and Westbrook on the bench.
With Westbrook gone, that is now impossible. That doesn’t mean Durant needs to play all 48 though. His rest time just needs to be altered.
There’s no reason not to rest Durant for the first three minutes of the second and fourth quarters until that first TV timeout. This way he gets the entire quarter break and then an extra TV timeout so he can finish the games fresher.
Scott Brooks has made it a habit for these last two seasons of playing Durant the entire second half in close games. More often than not, you will notice Durant’s shot not falling as much at the end of these games.
This has been the case in the last two games of this series. Durant needs that break. His teammates aren’t making it an easy decision for Brooks since they have an incredibly difficult time scoring with KD on the bench but the rest is still necessary.
Don’t expect this to be employed the rest of this series though. The Thunder have their backs against the wall now down 3-1 and Brooks is more likely to play KD the entire game than deciding to finally start giving him some rest.
Game 5 will be tomorrow night in OKC.