Article Written by Berry Tramel
LOS ANGELES — The mantle has passed. All doubt is removed. We saw it with our very eyes Saturday night at the Staples Center.
Kevin Durant is the NBA’s King Closer. Kobe Bryant no longer is.
Durant is the new Ice Man, and we don’t mean George Gervin, the thin man from yesteryear who so often is compared to Durant. This Ice Man delivers with the game on the line, and now he’s got the Thunder one win away from the Western Conference Finals.
Durant swished a 25-foot 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left to break a tie, and when Kobe clanged a deep 3-pointer with nine seconds to go, the Thunder secured the 103-100 win, took command of the series and ended all discussion on which player on Planet Earth you want taking a shot with the game on the line.
This was Durant’s third game-winner in eight Thunder playoff games this season. The buzzer-beater against Dallas in Game 1. The running one-hander with 18.6 seconds left against the Lakers in Game 2. Now this majestic shot that sucked not only the air out of the Staples Center, but the idea that anyone besides the Durantula is Mister Clutch.
“How about the play of Kevin Durant late in games in the playoffs?” asked TNT’s Steve Kerr. “I mean he has been ridiculous.”
And it’s not like Durant didn’t play a whale of a game the first 47 minutes and 46 seconds: 31 points, 13 rebounds, 11 fourth-quarter points and stellar defense on Kobe in the final four minutes.
And, oh by the way, a steal to set up the game-winner.
Call it the biggest victory to date in Oklahoma City’s NBA history. Slaying the Lakers after they appeared ready to go back to OKC tied 2-2? Coming back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit?
“I wish I could sit up here and say how that happened,” said Scotty Brooks. “It just happened.”
Nothing just happens. It happened because Russell Westbrook played the game of his life, and Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins stood strong in the face of a Laker avalanche, and everyone in Thunder blue refused to give up or give in.
Article republished courtesy of NewsOK.com.
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