The whole “clutch gene” thing has taken on a life of its own in the past year or two. It’s become an impossible standard to live up to. But for once, even with great player after great player succumbing to its weight and expectations, someone stepped up and met the challenge. Through the Western Conference Finals’ first three games, Kevin Durant had 13 fourth quarter points. Last night in OKC’s series-tying 109-103 win, he dropped 18 and made every single big basket. Durant (36 points) wasn’t just hitting jumpers either; In fact, most of his buckets in the fourth quarter were tear drops or midrange pull-ups, the hardest shots to master in the game. He made pretty much all of them, and by the time it was over, he had officially stamped his blueprint on a series that suddenly looks very interesting. The NBA’s scoring champ had 16 over a span of five minutes, and he needed every one; San Antonio had cut a 15-point lead down to as little as four … You could feel the tension in the building almost immediately, and everyone outside of Marv Albert, who sounded like he was computer generated on the TNT call, had their “A” game out. About halfway through the first quarter, San Antonio was up seven, they had 14 of their 19 points in the paint, and the Thunder were playing as if Durant was some random dude they picked up on the street. But as terrible of a start as it was, all the hosts needed was a little boost and all of a sudden they had ripped off a 10-0 spurt. In a sense, it was almost a good thing that some of the supporting cast got off so quickly for the Thunder. There was a point at the start of the second quarter where they had four role players and James Harden on the floor, and on three consecutive possessions, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison hits deep Js, and then Derek Fisher found Thabo Sefolosha for a one-handed sledgehammer in the lane. Twenty-seven of the team’s first 36 points came from people other than Durant, Westbrook and Harden. Seriously, Durant didn’t make his first field goal until there were two minutes left in the first half … Kendrick Perkins (15 points, nine rebounds) took three shots within the first two minutes, with one of them being a pull-up jumper and the other a spin-in-the-lane jump hook. Steve Kerr commented that San Antonio would live with that even if he made a couple. That’s an understatement. Perkins somehow needed the TNT guys to get him hyped up. After they roasted him during Game 2, Perk was a major factor in Game 3, and then went nuts offensively during the opening minutes last night. There’s no way this was by design on OKC’s part, even if Perkins looked like a young David Robinson early on … In the first half, Collison, Perkins & Ibaka (who would go on to finish 11-for-11 for a career-high 26 points) went 15-for-17 for 33 points. WHAT. As a team, the Thunder shot 58 percent in the first half … None of it might’ve mattered had Tim Duncan not turned into Joel Anthony overnight. He started off by missing five of his first seven shots, and pretty much all of them were gimmies right at the rim. He’d eventually recover to finish with 21 and eight, but his first 20 minutes were completely awful … We had to laugh when they showed an interview with Thabo Sefolosha early on. He was talking about destroying Parker and taking his heart offensively, and yet because of the French accent it still felt like he was reciting Boyz II Men lyrics … One thing we wanted to point out while we’re at it: on one fast break in the first half, Kawhi Leonard tried to get freaky, hesitated and then threw a no-look pass intended for Stephen Jackson that probably caught Ryan Seacrest (Who was sitting courtside) in the face. The TNT guys called it a “rookie mistake.” Is there a more misused, or perhaps overused, cliche in basketball? A “rookie mistake?” There are only a few instances where calling this actually holds merit, and it’s definitely not when someone throws a bad pass on a break. Leonard could’ve been a 25-year veteran and he still could’ve made that pass … We’re out like Ibaka missing.
Follow Dime Magazine on Twitter
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook