It was pretty clear before the series that the Nuggets were going to have trouble with one specific Thunder player. He happens to be very good. He happens to be a two-time scoring champions, two-time All-Star and the kind of gifted basketball player that can be impossible to guard no matter what you do.
But it was obvious that the Nuggets were going to have a lot of problems checking Kevin Durant. There’s really not a single guy on the roster that’s an ideal defender for him and it showed in Game 1 as George Karl tried Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and even Raymond Felton for a stretch.
It didn’t work.
Durant dropped 41 points on 13-22 shooting which included a second half explosion where he scored 25 on 9-13. In other words, Denver had some issues with KD.
That prompted Kenyon Martin — one never shy about saying what he thinks — to question the Nuggets’ strategy in guarding Durant. He told The Denver Post:
“Make him (pass it to) some one else. If you have him and (Russell) Westbrook on the court the same time, make Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka make plays. Run somebody at these guys. I don’t agree with (one-on-one) – we don’t let Kobe play one-on-one when we play him, no matter where he is on the court, so why would you let Kevin Durant play one-on-one.
“He shot right over Ray (Felton) like there was nobody guarding him,” Martin elaborated on Monday. “It doesn’t matter who you are, even if you’re the toughest defender in the world, (if you’re 6-1), he’s going to shoot right over him. You got to try something different, run somebody at him. Pick-and-roll? Jump on him. For three games, he’s been having his way with us – and I’m not comfortable with it.”
Indeed for three games, you could say Durant has been having his way with Denver. He’s averaging 35.5 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting. Still, a little odd to be so direct in calling out the gameplan. Martin’s right, it wasn’t brilliant putting Felton on Durant but Karl was sort of out of options at that time.
Durant isn’t going to average 40 for this series though. He’ll go a little cold one night, the Nuggets will figure out something or KD will just step back and let others score. But that’s the key. Others. James Harden can’t average five points a game for this series either. Serge Ibaka will need to find his mid-range game. The Nuggets are going to be intent on stopping Durant and Russell Westbrook in Game 2, so other players will have to rise to the occasion.
It wouldn’t shock me to see the Nuggets double Durant on the catch Wednesday. They might try and force things away from KD. OKC has other players that can beat you. Remember when the Nuggets tried to double Durant on Christmas when KD dropped 44 on them, including 21 in the third quarter? Durant passed wonderfully out of the double, deferring to teammates. We might see that again Wednesday. Because as Martin said, they’ve to try something.