Durant says he can do more to help Thunder
Kevin Durant has done more of everything for the Oklahoma City Thunder since Russell Westbrook was lost for the rest of the season with a knee injury after Game 2 of the Thunder's first round series against the Houston Rockets.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Kevin Durant has done more of everything for the Oklahoma City Thunder since Russell Westbrook was lost for the rest of the season with a knee injury after Game 2 of the Thunder's first round series against the Houston Rockets.
He's shot more, played more, scored more and facilitated more.
But with the Thunder backed up against another wall, trailing the Grizzlies 2-1 heading into Monday night's Game 4 in Memphis, Durant vowed there was still more to come.
"I can do a lot more. There's always things. No matter how good you play, you always can do more," said Durant, who has averaged 34 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and shot 50.6 percent from the field in the seven games Oklahoma City has played without Westbrook.
"I gotta find ways to help [my teammates] out and put them in great position. Continue to just be a vocal leader, a positive leader on the bench and every time down the court."
In other words, help them help themselves.
The Thunder shot a wretched 36 percent in Saturday's 87-81 loss to the Grizzlies. Sunday morning they practiced for about an hour, most of which was spent shooting.
"It was mostly a shooting practice," Thunder shooting guard Kevin Martin said. "We did everything well in the game yesterday except hit shots.
"That's the easiest part of the game. we get that under control we'll be fine."
Martin and forward Serge Ibaka each struggled mightily in Game 3, connecting on just six of their 17 shots from the field.
Durant seemed to fall off too, making six of his first eight shots, but just three of his next 11 attempts to finish 9-for-19 from the field. He also missed two critical free throws with 15.5 seconds remaining that would've cut the Grizzlies lead down to a single possession.
"I felt worse than anybody for not coming through for our guys, especially in a game we could've won," Durant said. "But we have to stick with it. We can't get down on ourselves, we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to stick with it and keep fighting."
After Saturday's game, Durant said he thought Ibaka's shooting woes were "all in his head" after he missed two wide open dunks, a lay-up and several uncontested mid-range jumpers.
Ibaka admitted Sunday that he was frustrated, but not that he lacked confidence.
"For me, my focus is only on next game," said Ibaka, who is shooting just 30.8 percent in the series and 42.9 percent in the playoffs after connecting on 57.3 percent of his shots in the regular season.
Strangely, Ibaka's struggles seem to have coincided with his missed tip-in at the end of Game 4 of the Houston series, that would have clinched a sweep of the Rockets.
Ibaka shot 56.4 percent and averaged 13.5 points through the first four games of the playoffs. Since that missed tip in, he's averaged just 10.6 points on 34.8 percent shooting.
"If you think about the past, you can't get better for the next one. So now I'm trying to do the best I can to forget about last night's game and be focused on the next game, try to be aggressive.
"I feel great. I feel great. If they play the same defense they played on me last night, I think the next game will be a different story."
The Thunder and Grizzlies find themselves in a remarkably similar position as two years ago when Memphis held a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 at the FedEx Forum. The Thunder rallied for a triple-overtime victory then, and a seven-game series win before falling to the eventual-NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley remembers it well.
"It was the same feel, same set up going towards the game," Conley said Sunday. "But I do think this year the guys on our team -- guys who've been there and done it like Tayshaun [Prince] and Tony [Allen] and myself -- we've all grown. We're so focused on understanding the moment. Not getting caught up in the moment, but understanding it, and treating each game just as we have every game for the last couple of weeks."
Conley said he remembers the young Grizzlies looking ahead to a potential conference finals matchup with the Mavericks that year, knowing they'd had success against Dallas in the regular season.
"We were getting ahead of ourselves," he said. "I think that's why this year we're so focused on each individual game so we don't have that sour taste again this summer.
"It's very similar, but this year I just feel something different. we're better, right now than we've ever been."
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