Not a lot of people are paying attention to the Oklahoma City Thunder — the Miami Heat are the NBA’s glamour team — but you should because Kevin Durant is proving why he soon will be crowned the best player in basketball. The 23-year-old from DC has already won three scoring titles in his career and finished just behind Lebron James in this year’s MVP race. But let me ask you a question, who’s more valuable in the fourth quarter? You know it’s not Lebron. We saw him shrink in the clutch against the Dallas Mavericks last year in the NBA Finals and in game 2 against the Pacers he was nowhere to be found during the Heat’s final two possessions.
Lebron is an unbelievably complete player who puts up gaudy numbers — he scored 40 today in Game 4 against the Pacers — but who would you rather have taking the last shot? Last night Durant put the dagger in the L.A. Lakers playoff hopes with a huge three-pointer with 13 seconds left to give the Thunder a 101-98 lead. Oh, he also guarded Kobe in the fourth quarter and held him to 0-4 shooting when he was guarding him and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant used to be known as the guy who you want to lead your team in the fourth quarter. Well the truth is he hasn’t hit a game-winning or game-tying shot in the playoffs for years. In this series Kobe is just 3-17 from the field in the final six minutes. Meanwhile Durant has led the Thunder to a commanding 3-1 lead in the series not only by hitting big shots but also by coming up with two critical steals.
Barring a miracle the Thunder will advance to the Western Conference Finals and will face the San Antonio Spurs. This will be a huge challenge for the young Thunder as well as Durant. But if the Thunder advance and win an NBA Championship, Kevin Durant will add to his All-Star MVP with a Finals MVP. And then he’ll be crowned the best player in basketball. It’s only a matter of time.