May 20, 2012, 2:40 AM EDT
As Russell Westbrook led the charge offensively for the Thunder in their Game 4 win over the Lakers — finishing with a brilliant 37 points on 15-of-26 shooting — Kevin Durant seemed pleased to let that happen. But once the Thunder had made it all the way back from a deficit that hung at around 10 points for the majority of the night, Durant was the one to seal it, burying this three-pointer from the top of the arc to send his team back home with a 3-1 series lead, and a chance to close the Lakers out on Monday.
Each team had somewhat of a freak turnover right before this play unfolded. Westbrook slipped and lost the ball, on a floor that seemed slicker than usual all night long. Then, with the Lakers getting their chance to break the 98-all tie, Pau Gasol turned down a one-on-one situation on the baseline in favor of trying a cross-court pass to kick it out for an open three.
Durant intercepted the pass, then dribbled the clock down before pulling up for the three just as soon as his defender gave him enough space.
“I wanted to run the shot clock down and get the last shot,” Durant said, while walking us through that possession. “Standing up there I was just trying to look at the picture of the whole floor, and see where I can get the best shot possible. I had been going to the rim and they had been doing a great job swiping and contesting, so I saw Artest (Metta World Peace) back up just a hair, and I shot it.”
It seems like Durant — much like we’ve seen from Carmelo Anthony in similar situations — is so smooth from three-point distance that he’d almost prefer to get an open look at a shot from there than take his chances plowing into the paint, where there is far more uncertainty in late-game situations.
Even if that’s true, though, Durant knew he’d take some heat if his shot of choice didn’t go down.
“It left my hand, I was thinking, if this doesn’t go in, it’s going to be a terrible shot. They’re going to criticize me a lot. I had confidence in the shot, my teammates had confidence in me, and we just kept fighting. Russell did a great job of keeping us in it all night, and I just tried to do my job by finishing the game.”
Not only did he finish the game, but with the Lakers now trailing 3-1 heading back to Oklahoma City, he may have helped finish the series.
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