There are performances in a young superstar’s career that provide a glimpse as to how high that player can rise and what he can accomplish in his NBA career. Saturday night’s fourth quarter scoring barrage by Kevin Durant was one of those performances and by all indications we are witnessing the maturation of an all-time great. With a little less than seven minutes to go in the game, the hard charging Spurs had continued a strong second half by cutting the Oklahoma City Thunder’s lead down to four, 86-82.
Russell Westbrook was mired in an awful 2-10 from the field, seven-point clunker. Durant knew that the only way his team was winning the game, and ultimately staying in the series, was if he took over. To say he took over doesn’t do justice to his performance. Over the next five and half minutes, Durant scored all of the Thunder’s 16 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field and 2-2 from the charity stripe. When Durant was finished cutting the heart out of San Antonio, Oklahoma City lead 102-93 with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter. The Spurs never got closer than six points the rest of the game and the series was headed back to Texas tied 2-2. It was the best Durant has ever looked on the big stage and it saved the Thunder’s season. I’m sure somewhere Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were all smiling.
The other story of Game 4 was the contributions made by the Thunder bigs. Serge Ibaka shot an astounding 11-11 from the field and registered 26 points while the much-maligned Kendrick Perkins added 15 points on 7-9 shooting from the field. Overall, the Thunder’s role players were drastically better at home than they were on the road in the first two games of the series. This will not continue in Game 5 since role players fare better at home by feeding off the energy of the crowd. If the Thunder are going to steal Game 5 it will because they get two big performances from the trio of Durant, Westbrook and James “The Beard” Harden.
Just a few days ago the Spurs were considered a near lock to take home the title. For some people, it wasn’t a question of if they were going to win but if they were going to lose a game along the way. What we learned over the last two days is that you can take the Spurs out of their rhythm by pushing the tempo both offensively and defensively. The once unbeatable team now has a weakness that can be exploited. It’s anyone’s title for the taking and for the sake of some drama that’s a good thing.
Who says the Heat doesn’t have a Big Three even with Chris Bosh injured. Has anyone noticed what Mario Chalmers is doing in the Eastern Conference Finals? The overlooked point guard is averaging 15 points and five assists per game against the Celtics including 22 points and six assists in an OT win in Game 2. His performance has been critical since Dwayne Wade hasn’t been quite as good in this series as he was at the end of the Indiana series.
Speaking of Bosh, don’t expect him to have much of an impact in this series even if he returns at some point. He hasn’t seen game action in three weeks and counting so it will take him a game or two to get his rhythm and stamina back. The Finals, if the Heat get there, is realistically when Bosh will regain his form and seriously contribute again.
As for the Celtics, in order for them to win this series they need a Game 4 victory and another jaw dropping performance, like the career high 44-point outburst Rajon Rondo provided in Game 2, in either Game 5 or Game 7. This time, however, Boston needs to justify the performance by winning the game.
A Staff Writer for RotoExperts, Tamer Chamma is a two time top 50 Finalist in the WFAN Fantasy Phenom contest as well as a weekly guest on the SiriusXM "RotoExperts" morning show. Tamer is also a fill-in co-host for the show. You may contact Tamer @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RotoExperts_TC