“It was one of those things,” Durant said in the bowels of Staples Center about an hour after scoring 31 points in the Game 4 victory that gave the Thunder a 3-1 lead in its best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Lakers. “We fought so hard, being down all game, I had to kind of calm myself down from screaming and throwing fists and all of that.”
Durant, 23, knew how to react after watching enough highlights of game-winners and studying the mannerisms of other players who have established reputations for clutch performances — including his opponent in this series, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan before him. Closers are cold-blooded. Closers don’t reveal emotion. Closers understand being lethal is routine.
“That’s the role I want,” Durant said. “Coming in, being one of the main guys, I want to take those shots. I got to live with what people say when I miss them and I can’t get too happy about what people say when I make them. I’ve got to know that if I make a shot in the closing seconds, I got to walk off as if I’ve done it before and if I miss it, I got to walk off like I made it.”
Oklahoma City has seven playoff victories so far, and Durant has already provided the game-winning basket in three of them. He hit an off-balance fallaway shot that danced around the rim before dropping in the playoff opener against defending champion Dallas. He hit a short runner over the outstretched arm of Lakers forward Pau Gasol in Game 2.
His shot in Game 4 was probably the most impressive; it helped the Thunder avoid returning home mentally shaken with the series tied at 2-2. Durant also had to block out missing two free throws that could have tied the game with 2 minutes 33 seconds remaining before hitting a difficult baseline jumper shortly thereafter.
Westbrook had carried the Thunder for most of the night, scoring 10 of his team-high 37 points in the fourth quarter, but even he knew when — and for whom — to step aside.
“He’s the best scorer in the game. He’s proven it, all season long,” Westbrook said of Durant, the youngest ever NBA three-time scoring champion. “He has the confidence in the closing minutes in the fourth quarter and my job as the point guard is to let him finish the games off for us, like he’s been doing all year.”