OKLAHOMA CITY – Pondering Kevin Durants latest big-time shot on the playoff stage, Lionel Hollins started listing a whos who of NBA greats from days gone by: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, George Mikan, Bob Pettit.
What do they all have in common?
If you just go through the history, all the great players made big shots, said Hollins, the Memphis Grizzlies coach. Thats why theyre great, not just good.
If youre not a clutch player, youre not a great player, he added. You cannot be a great player and not be a clutch player.
Durant is trying to blaze his own path to greatness with his own successes in the closers role for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His jumper with 11.1 seconds left in Oklahoma Citys Game 1 victory against Memphis on Sunday marked the third time already this postseason that the All-Star has produced the go-ahead basket late in a close game.
He also did it with a three-pointer in the final minute of Game 3 against Houston in the first round and another three with just under 2 1/2 minutes to go in Game 2 against the Rockets.
Thats how you build a legacy. Thats how you become a part of the history of this game is by making those great shots, said teammate Derek Fisher, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers who has his made his own share of clutch postseason shots and been around for Kobe Bryant making plenty, too. And Kevin, only five or six years into the league, is becoming one of those guys that well remember forever. Its always great to be on the same team with those kind of guys.
The Grizzlies led 90-87 entering the final minute of Game 1 after Marc Gasols hook shot over Kendrick Perkins. Durant hit jumpers on Oklahoma Citys next two possessions, and the Grizzlies – who traded away their go-to guy, Rudy Gay, this season – couldnt match him in crunch time.
Instead of stealing Game 1 on the road, theyre down 0-1 heading into Game 2 in Oklahoma City tonight.
While Durant was doing his damage, Memphis had four possessions in the final minute and didnt get the production needed.
After a Perkins turnover, Tayshaun Prince missed on a runner in the lane and Durant connected to cut the Thunders deficit to 90-89. Then Mike Conley sped past Fisher, only to get the ball poked out from behind and set up Durants go-ahead basket in transition.
With All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook out for the rest of the playoffs, the Thunders go-to guy is unquestionably Durant.
Theres no question guys have it and guys dont, and Kevin has it, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. Im sure hes always been that type of player from the day he picked up a basketball. He has it because he has the skill level, he has the ability to get where he wants to get to.