NBA Finals 2012: Breaking Down How Kevin Durant Can Seize Control
We're now seeing the emergence of the player Kevin Durant is to become.
As if he wasn't already the game's most unguardable scorer, he's becoming still more unstoppable before our eyes. Down the stretch of what ultimately proved to be a perilous Game 4 against the Miami Heat, we saw Durant fighting for position and calling for the ball like he's rarely done up to this point.
Don't let the outcome of that game—or, potentially, the series—fool you.
KD is increasingly discovering how to coexist with the similarly dynamic Russell Westbrook, a learning process that has only begun in the grand scheme of things.
He'll just have to speed that process up a bit if the Oklahoma City Thunder stand a chance of prevailing in these all-but-decided NBA Finals.
If he falls short, it won't be for lack of greatness. If he succeeds, we may in fact be witnessing a new generation of greatness. This much is certain, though: no player in this league is better suited to do what OKC needs done.
Not even LeBron James.
The typically deferential Durant must take a page from the playbooks and personas of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and a select few legendary predecessors ranging from Allen Iverson to Michael Jordan. It's not enough that the three-time scoring champion call for the ball—he must own the ball.
Yes, he should take 30 shots tonight. And yes, he should force the officials' hand and draw fouls without abandon. If he still doesn't get to the free-throw line as much as LeBron James, let it be one more blow to the league's already-stained reputation.
More importantly, though, he should simply be in a position to make plays.
Sometimes that will mean creating opportunities for Westbrook. Other times it will require him to look for the Thunder's bigs hovering around the paint. The key in either instance is to force Miami to throw everything it has at him.
Even with the double-teams and bullying, he should be able to score 30 points.
The real test will be whether he can also produce 10 assists.
LeBron James is a fine passer in his own right, but he's not the second-coming of Magic Johnson. He creates plays because he so frequently has the ball. With Westbrook dominating the rock, the Thunder are at the mercy of his limited court vision and preference for taking the shot.
To be clear, taking those shots really isn't the problem. OKC's point guard is as well-equipped to score as virtually anyone.
The problem is that Durant is too often reduced to an off-the-ball threat. When the game slows down, KD should get touches on every possession, and early in the shot clock at that. It should be his game to win—and his to lose.
If that indeed becomes the game plan, chances are he won't lose.
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