Kevin Durant has game. The limits to what he can do on the basketball court are only rivaled by what LeBron James can do. The countdown to the top players in the NBA might end with LeBron, but few would argue that Durant isn’t No. 2 on the list.
The difference between No. 1 and No. 2, though, is wider than it seems, because if Durant, his MVP award and scoring titles notwithstanding, hopes to reach the top spot, he’ll have to do what LeBron has done in Miami: win a championship.
And the way Durant and Oklahoma City are playing in the Western Conference Finals suggests they aren’t going to make it to the NBA Finals this post season.
In Game 2 of the series, Durant spent the fourth quarter tied to the Thunder bench. He had to watch as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs ran what looked like a scrimmage, pouring on the points, shutting down Durant and the Thunder on offense, controlling the tempo.
The only question Durant had to consider was whether he and his teammates would lose by 40 points.
Not to pick on Durant, because basketball truly is the quintessential team game, but in the post season, teams ride their stars to greatness. In the moments when the pressure is tightest, when a man’s nerves are on edge, the star must play beyond his stature; he must find a second gear, a third gear or whatever gear is needed to take his team to the summit.
Kevin Durant has not done that — yet. That’s the lone reason he and the Thunder return Friday to Oklahoma City down 2-0. It wasn’t so much that they lost; it was that they lost badly, including the 112-77 blowout Wednesday night in a game that could have taken the spirit out of them.
At this point in a long season, success is about the will to win, and that’s what Durant needs to show. He can ill afford another off night, not with Oklahoma City absent the inside power of Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka or not, the Thunder are Durant’s team, just as the Heat are LeBron’s team. All the other players on the Thunder roster, which includes the mercurial Russell Westbrook, are complementary. The Thunder will go beyond this round only if Durant will carry them there.
Durant has a resume that’s absent a championship. He has been the star on every team he’s played for, but he has taken none of those teams to where all of them want to be.
His play might hint that Durant’s a basketball player in the mold of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone — great players who didn’t win anything.
Durant might well win a championship in Oklahoma City. Stars like him build their legacies on successes, and if Durant is to cement his, he needs a championship.
But no one should expect he will win one this season. He would have to play otherworldly, and as super as his skills are, Durant can’t do the impossible.
What he can do is smooth out the rough edges in his game and tighten up his defense. Unless he goes beyond that, unless he does do the impossible, puts the Thunder on his shoulders and carries them where they haven’t been, he and his teammates will enter the off season with another disappointment.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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