It painted quite a striking picture. Kevin Durant sitting on the floor at Chesapeake Arena, facing away from the basket that his teammate Russell Westbrook was facing to shoot three pressure filled free throws.
It reminded us that even the best have tough times. Even the leagues Most Valuable Player can feel the pressure. It just added to the MVP speech, showing first hand that Kevin Durant is human, and he cares about this game, his team and his city a great deal.
After blowing a 16 point lead the the fourth quarter of Game 4 and allowing the series to be tied up – the pressure was right back on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were heading home with a tied series, knowing full well they should be well and truly in command.
Game 5 was an instant classic. The entire contest but obviously the final minutes, will be spoken about for years to come – in good terms and bad, depending on your perspective. This article isn’t focusing or recapping the end to the game, it is looking at Kevin Durant and how he handled the struggles he faced.
The leagues best scorer – struggled. It was a different struggle to the battle he faced with Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies, but it was an intense battle none the less. He tried to shrug off a poor shooting night, but the ball just wouldn’t fall. It was one of his worst shooting performances from the floor in his seven year career. Instead of shying away though, Durant kept coming, kept the belief in his skill and his shot. When the jumper wouldn’t drop, he got to the foul line – just to see the ball go through the basket.
He kept focused on the game. It was clear that the annoyance of a poor offensive game was weighing on his mind – even causing him to miss a few defensive assignments – but he kept his head up and worked hard to stay in the game and have an impact. He rebounded the basketball and set up teammates. He did whatever he could do to be an asset to the team he loves so dearly.
When crunch time came and it seemed like the Thunder were going to head back to Los Angeles with a second round elimination once again facing him, Durant appeared. By not taking plays off, by not letting the moments consume him – he was able to come through for himself, his teammates and his town when it mattered the most.
A key assist on a Reggie Jackson layup, a huge three point basket and finally a driving layup and the Thunder were in a position to win the game and take the series lead.
As Russell Westbrook stepped to the line with three foul shots ahead of him, Durant couldn’t watch. He had fought hard, relied on his teammates and they were so close to a victory – but he couldn’t watch. Westbrook would go on to knock down the shots and the Thunder would make a key defensive play to take the game and the series lead.
Some of us couldn’t turn away – others couldn’t watch.
A “real” superstar, not hidden behind arrogance or “swag”. Humble and appreciative, honest and endearing. We relate to Durant and that is why the basketball world loves him.
Durant finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists – and the win.