Without Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder were still able to get out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. However, they now face one of the best teams in the Western Conference in the Memphis Grizzlies. Though the Thunder have a good deal of talent on their roster, there was absolutely no doubt that their hopes of advancing past the second round rested with Kevin Durant.
The Grizzlies, one of the best defensive teams in the entire league, would obviously have a plan to try and stifle Durant, but there’s only so much a team can do against arguably the best offensive player in the game. Durant proved that with his performance in game one as he led the Thunder to a 93-91 victory.
Durant played 44 minutes in the game and finished with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks while still shooting 13-26 from the field. He obviously did everything in his power on both ends of the floor to give the Thunder a chance to win. He proved unequivocally that he is the leader of this team, especially in the fourth quarter.
In the final 12-minute period alone, Durant put up 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block on 6-9 shooting. More importantly, he drained the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds remaining on the clock. That shot gave the Thunder the lead that they held onto to win the game.
Though it’s asking a lot of him, this is what Durant has to do every game for the Thunder. The Grizzlies are an unreal defensive team capable of stopping the Thunder’s other offensive options like Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, even though Martin played well on Sunday. Durant is the only player that will be able to consistently lead OKC offensively in this series. If they are going to win this series, it’s going to be because Durant led them to victory.