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2013 NBA Playoffs: Kevin Durant and the moment of weariness

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Kevin Durant has shouldered a major burden during this series. The burden always catches him in the 4th quarter.

Kevin Durant's late game struggles are well documented at this point. We also know that it is not happening in a vacuum, as Mike Prada's great slideshow demonstrates.

As I was watching the 4th quarter of Game 4 play out as the Thunder offense ground to a halt (only 7 points in the final 6 minutes of play), the Thunder were gamely but desperately trying to hold on. Clinging to a 1 point lead, the Thunder got a steal and a 2 on 1 fast break opportunity. Durant was leading the way with Thabo Sefolosha on the right wing.

Not having Westbrook running the break or finishing on the wing is one thing. The mental and physical fatigue that is clearly effecting Durant is another. Perhaps I'm taking creative license here, but in a normal game situation, I can think of only two things that Durant does in this type of situation:

1) Takes 2 long strides and dunks the bejeebus out of the ball on Mike Conley's head;

2) Eurosteps right-then-left to sniff out a potential and-1 play.

Instead, Durant gives up the ball waaaaay too early to Sefolosha, long before Conley has to commit to either one of them. The result is a bad finishing angle and the diminutive Conley is able to thwart a 2-on-1 fast break that featured the best scorer in the world.

On top of that, Durant somehow finds the ball after the fast break disaster but still rushes a 3 foot shot and misses. OKC's chance to build on a lead in a game that went to overtime is lost.

My immediate thought that I whispered to nobody:

"Durant's legs are gone."

Nobody is to blame, but what we're seeing is a byproduct of a smart and physical defense that is slowly grinding down the Thunder's chances at victory.

Zach Lowe sums it up perfectly:

The Grizz, man. They just beat you up, and wear you down, and cloud your judgment. And they’re one game from the conference finals.