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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Point fingers at Durant, not Thunder's defense, for loss

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- For two days the world has roasted Russell Westbrook, but now the flame goes to Kevin Durant. And the flame should be red-hot, but I suspect it won't. Unlike Westbrook, who doesn't have much of a reputation either way, Durant's known as a great young man. And deservedly so. He's nice, he's humble, he might even be a dork, what with those 1950s manners, his shirt buttoned to the neck and that damn backpack.

But he pretty much lost Game 3.

Nice guy or not, the Thunder's 93-87 loss to Dallas on Saturday night is on Durant. It has to be on somebody, right? It can't be on the Game 2 piñata, Westbrook, not when he scored 30 points and carried his team back from a huge deficit with a 15-point fourth quarter. It can't be on anyone else in the Thunder starting lineup, because even OKC coach Scott Brooks noted before the game that those guys don't score, they defend, and they defended well enough on Saturday night. Dirk Nowitzki was manhandled into an awful offensive game for Dallas, and all told the Mavericks scored a series-low 93 points. Defense didn't lose this game for Oklahoma City.

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Offense lost it.

Which means Kevin Durant, who missed 15 of 22 shots from the floor and all eight of his tries from 3-point range, lost this game.

Well, I could go the other way, I suppose. Rather than picking on Durant, I could find the Dallas defender who forced Durant into this bad game and celebrate him. Thing is, that guy doesn't exist. Durant missed open jumper after open jumper. He missed open floaters. He drove for a reverse layup and threw it off the bottom of the backboard. He's 6-foot-10 with long arms, a nearly 40-inch vertical and the ability to get a shot whenever he wants it. When he has a bad game, nobody does it to him. He does it to himself.

"I missed a lot of chippies," Durant said. "I missed three or four wide-open jump shots, three or four wide-open threes."

See? And this wasn't a one-game thing for Durant, either. He has missed his last 13 shots from 3-point range, a streak extending two full games. Not since late in Game 1 has Durant hit a 3-pointer, his only make from that distance in his last 17 tries.

Staggering. Kevin Durant, the NBA's two-time defending scoring champion and a career 36-percent shooter from 3-point range, is on a 1-for-17 stretch on 3-pointers. He has missed his last 13. The last time he went two full games without a 3-pointer? Not this season. You have to go back to March 2010, a stretch of 111 games, to find such a cold spell.

"I was telling myself after the game, 'It's not like me to miss 12 or 13 threes in a row,'" he said. "I get 'em up every day [in practice]. I work on it every day. It's just a matter of me being confident."

The big-picture result from Saturday night probably won't help him there. Added pressure rarely does, but if he didn't know before, he knows now. Kevin Durant will win the Western Conference finals for Oklahoma City, or will lose it. It's not mostly on him. It's all on him.

Look at the facts from Game 3. His explosive counterpart for Dallas, Nowitzki, was terrible. Nowitzki scored 18 points but needed 21 shots to get there. He was 7 of 21 from the floor and had more turnovers (seven) than rebounds (four), assists (one), steals (zero) and blocked shots (zero) combined.

Nowitzki was bad, and Dallas still led every second of this game, including a 23-point edge in the second quarter, a 21-point lead in the third and a double-digit lead for the first half of the fourth quarter. On his own team, Durant saw the Robin to his Batman, Westbrook, bounce back from his fourth-quarter benching in Game 2 to lead all scorers with 30 points.

So to recap, Dallas' best player was awful. Oklahoma City's second-best player led all scorers. And still the Thunder got blown out. How come?

Because Durant had a bad game. The Thunder can survive a lot of things -- including, for example, a fourth-quarter benching of Russell Westbrook -- but they cannot survive a bad game by Durant. Not against a Dallas bunch that clearly has the better supporting cast.

Oklahoma City's starting five has a unique makeup, a startling pair of scorers in Durant and Westbrook followed by some of the most punch-less offensive starters in the league. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha average 17.8 ppg combined. James Harden usually scores in double figures off the bench, but when he doesn't -- and he didn't Saturday night -- the Thunder need huge offensive games from Westbrook and Durant.

Westbrook did his part. Durant did not. And because of that, the Thunder squandered the home-court edge they'd stolen from Dallas on Thursday. The Mavs now lead this series 2-1.

We saw how Westbrook responded from Game 2 to Game 3.

Let's see what Durant does in Game 4.

Or there might not be a Game 6. If you know what I mean.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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