Kevin Durant does not care about you. Your yearning for entertaining and competitive basketball does not concern him.
Kevin Durant cares only for the iron-tinged taste of blood.
Durant, you may recall, is the 25-year-old angular assassin who, despite a growing bald spot, legs thinner than toothpicks and a prominent role in the 2012 film Thunderstruck, is the league’s presumptive (and deserved) MVP this year. As always, he was statisically sublime, leading the league in scoring at 32 points per game, grabbing 7 boards a night and slashing his way to more than 800 free-throw attempts.
But it was during a pivotal stretch in January, with runningmate Russell Westbrook on the shelf, that KD became something more than just a stat-sheet monster: He carried the Thunder on his skinny shoulders, going for 30 in 12-straight games (including a career-high 54 against the Golden State Warriors), spearheaded a 10-game winning streak and let it be known that this was his team ... and his season.
But until Sunday, it remained to be seen if this was also his postseason. Through five games, the Thunder's first-round matchup against the physical, defensive-minded Memphis Grizzles was a series for the ages. Four overtimes. An improbable, clutch four-point play. Another improbable, clutch four-point play. Joey Crawford predictably doing something insane during a pivotal moment. A Serge Ibaka game-winning tip-in that didn’t count.
The entire first round of this year’s NBA playoffs has been historically fun to watch – with five of the eight series going to seven games and some heart-attack inducing moments in each. But this battle was clearly in a class all its own.
The breathless drama of what was occurring on the court was compounded by some interesting off-the-court media shenanigans. Durant had clearly been struggling during the first five games of the series, bothered by the relentless, two-headed defensive hydra of Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince and posting only 40-percent shooting from the field along with a high turnover rate. And his three-point attempt (for the win) at the end of Game 5 rattled out.
This momentary, fleeting glimpse of a Kevin Durant who was not a superhuman cyborg of cold-hearted basketball efficiency was enough to stir the NBA Hive Mind waters – a dark Westeros populated by loudmouth talking heads and an untold number of media outlets desperate to feed the bottomless, gaping maw of the modern content machine, all of them inexorably grasping for "Hot Takes" to attract eyeballs.
The biggest offender was Oklahoma City’s own the Oklahoman who – shockingly – ran a big, fat 80-point headline calling Durant "Mr. Unreliable" after the Game 5 loss. Though the paper later apologized for the word choice, the incident only served to ratchet up the public’s anticipation for a dramatic conclusion to this series. The world waited with baited breath for Game 6. Anticipation built. Would Durant and his Thunder fold under pressure and bring an ignominious and shameful end to his MVP season? Would the underdog Grizz Grit-And-Grind their way to victory? Do you believe in miracles? Is Santa Claus real?
And then the last two games were total blowouts, with OKC’s victories never in doubt. Turns out Santa Claus is hella fake.
Durant ripped the collective hearts out of the entire city of Memphis, as well as anyone hoping for a nail-biting conclusion to the series. And he did it with ruthless and surgical precision, scoring 69 points on only 41 shots between the two games, and stroking all five of his attempted three-pointers in the deciding Game 7. Yes, Memphis was at a disadvantage in Game 7 with Zach Randolph suspended for awkwardly punching large-nostrilled instigator Steven Adams. And yes, Westbrook had a triple-double in Game 7 to help the cause (his only good game of the series, arguably).
But in the end, this cold dispatching – this indifferent snuffing out of collective dreams – was all about Durant. He has become Death, the destroyer of worlds. Can he carry OKC through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference, past LeBron in the Finals and capture the title that has eluded him?
We should all be excited to find out, even if he doesn’t give a shit about us.
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