Blog Entry

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:42 pm
Posted by Royce Young

The Narrative: Does anybody really feel like they have a good handle on the direction of Game 2 tonight? I definitely don't. After the drama of Game 1, it's hard to have any idea which way this thing is going to turn.

Of course, there are two major storylines coming in: 1) How do the Nuggets guard Kevin Durant and 2) can they bounce back from a devastating Game 1 loss?

With the first one, Kenyon Martin already talked yesterday about the Nuggets needing to adjust on Durant. I'm expecting to see him being doubled more often. Denver tried that once, back in December, after Durant dropped 21 in a quarter on them. He entered the fourth with 40 points, and I guess you could say the double worked, because he only finished with 44. Except the Thunder won comfortably because Durant did well passing out of that double-team.

For the second, that's up to George Karl. With his laid back demeanor and seemingly carefree attitude, he's a terrific coach for this Nuggets team. I think that'll come in handy tonight when he tries to get his guys to forget about Tip-In Gate.

The Hook: I agree with George Karl. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't going to average 70 points a game together for this series. They're really good, but not that good.

But here's news to Karl: James Harden isn't going to average just five a game, either.

That was the Thunder sixth man's output from Game 1, where he went 0-4 from 3 and 1-5 from the field. Since the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston, Harden averaged more than 16 points per game and almost 20 the last couple weeks of the season. He's a legit third scorer for the Thunder and a player Scott Brooks can turn to when in need of extra offense. But shutting down Durant is priority one for Denver. Westbrook is second. And then Harden. The Nuggets caught a break with him being off in Game 1. Don't count on that happening again.

The Adjustment:
I already mentioned it, and while the Nuggets adjustment on Durant is the biggest key, there's another question they need to answer: How do they score in the last five minutes?

Denver really had no idea where to go with the ball in late in Game 1. They tried Danilo Gallinari. Then J.R. Smith. Then Raymond Felton. There was just no good sense of where to put the ball. George Karl didn't sound concerned about it postgame, but I can promise you it's something he's been thinking about the last two days.

The X-Factor:
Where, oh where, was J.R. Smith in Game 1? He's likely the key to the series and he was virtually non-existent. He can make Nuggets fans pull their hair out sometimes, but he didn't do that once. He tried too hard to fit in to the flow of the game, and when Denver needed points late, he didn't seem to be willing to pull the trigger.

Denver has scorers, but the one that can truly isolate and score on his own is Smith. He's capable of lighting up OKC for 15 in a quarter if he gets going. And I can almost promise you, if Smith scores 20 tonight, the Nuggets win.

The Sticking Point: Both teams shot the ball extremely well in Game 1. Durant and Westbrook combined to go 18-25 on jumpshots. Can these teams keep it up? Both teams are gifted offensively and have scorers all over the floor, but maintaining a 50 percent clip, in the playoffs no less, is difficult. Will it continue? I say no. Which means this game will likely be more about defense and rebounding. Who has the edge there? Probably the Thunder.


Since: May 3, 2007
Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:54 am

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

Denver will survive this opening series vs the Thunder.  They're not supposed to win a road game in the playoffs.  Their key is to take this series home and defend their territory.  Then go back to OKC and steal a game.  This is right where it's supposed to be.  The Nuggets are just fine, but one win would have been great.  Keep doing what you're doing with Durant.  But limit the other Thunder players in what they get done.  You're heading home where you play extremely well.  I say this series is right on course for both teams.  Remember, this is how the playoffs work.  Home court advantage is huge.  Just focus on what you do well, and exploit your bench advantage.  You're sitting right where you're supposed to be.  The series is even so far.  No time for concern, much less any panic.

Since: May 25, 2007
Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:22 am

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

The Thunder really have too much horsepower for the Nuggets.  Durant won't be stopped, even with a double team.  He's going to turn out to be among the greatest ever to play in the NBA. The Nuggets have no one to go to in the clutch and they have no good answer to Durant, much less Westbrook.  If the Nuggets can sneak 1 or 2 out at home, I'll be very surprised.  The Nuggets simply have no clutch guys to seal the deal.  They traded all that away to the Knicks.  If the series makes it to 5 games I will be shocked.  If Denver places more attention on Durant, the rest of the Thunder will take them apart.  If they don't, Durant will take them apart.  Not a very good situation for Denver.  But, the Nuggets should be significantly tougher at home.  The next two games at Denver will be very telling.  Really ggod series to this point I will say.

Since: May 13, 2007
Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:05 am

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

The Nuggets really don't have a go-to closer anymore.  They traded that away.  But they have a very deep, talented team and they should now play to that strength.  An up tempo, run them into the ground strategy if you will.  Few teams, if any, have the bench depth of the Nuggets.  They have ten players which are interchangable for the most part.  Forget about Durant, and shut down the rest of the Thunder team.  Extra effort on defense, they have plenty of depth.  If the Nuggets focus on Durant, the rest of the Thunder will have a field day.  I say stay the course until we see how it plays out in Colorado.  George Karl will figure this out.  He's a great coach with the experience to figure this out.  If the Nuggets can defend their home court, this will turn out to be a very interesting series.  I think they will, and when we go back to OKC, it will be a whole new series.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2011 11:47 pm

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

I really can't come up with a way to substantially slow down Durant.  Nobody figured it out for the past two years, so I don't really feel too stupid on this.  To me the key is stopping the rest of the Thunder team.  Much like the situation with Orlando.  Let the superstar have his numbers, but shut down the rest of the team.  If you focus on Durant, the Thunder have more than enough talent, at several positions, to make you pay dearly.  One player cannot beat an NBA playoff team by himself.  I'm really interested in seeing how Denver responds.  Karl is a great coach, and if it can be figured out, he's the one to do it  This will turn out to be a great series, particularly when it returns to Denver.  I just can't wait to see how all this plays out.

Since: Apr 6, 2011
Posted on: April 20, 2011 6:56 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 6:45 pm

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

Wow, a rare intelligent and sensible post on this site. Well done .

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:56 pm

Series Reset: Changing course on Durant

The Nuggets Thunder series will likely be the most entertaining sries in the first round of the playoffs.  For Game 2, it's very likely we'll see much more double teaming Kevin Durant.  The Nuggets have surely learned their lesson on that by now.  They will make Westbrook and others beat them.  The really vexing problem for the Nuggets is they have no clear-cut, go-to guy to close out the game.  And I really can't see one on their present team.  Melo and Chauncy Billups were there closers, and they are gone.  For the Nuggets to win Game 2 on the road, they must build a fairly large lead early and ride it to the end with strong defense and double teams.  And the Nuggets current roster is well suited to this strategy.  The Thunder have been playing very well, so I really don't see them changing much in their approach to Game 2 at home.  Furthermore, tha Nuggets have one of the deepest benches in the NBA, and will want to utilize that strength against the Thunder to an even greater degree.  I wouldn't even want to guess how this game and series ends up.  I'm just going to enjoy it.

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