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Three Adjustments Thunder Need to Make to Beat Mavericks in Game 2

Led by an all-time great playoff performance from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks slaughtered the Thunder 121-112 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday.

Dirk dropped 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting and broke an NBA playoff record for made free throws in a game without a miss by going 22-of-22 from the line.

Kevin Durant tried his best to retaliate, scoring 40 points, but his teammates weren’t up to the task. The Thunder’s performance wasn’t as respectable as the single-digit final deficit suggests; they were outplayed in every aspect of the game.

Any time your opponent shoots 53% from the field and outscores your bench 53-22, you’re in major trouble.

So what does OKC have to do to bounce back and even the series 1-1?

Here are three key adjustments the Thunder can make to win Game 2:

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Nike Marketing Kevin Durant Backpack Along with Clothing Line

During Oklahoma City Thunder post-game press conferences, two things go hand-in-hand: Kevin Durant and his backpack.  For whatever reason, the 21-year-old superstar does all his post game blabber wearing his backpack completely strapped up and ready to go.  Like any smart company would do, Nike is capitalizing on the fashion statement by selling the carrying book bag as part of Durant’s KD III line.

It has almost become symbolic for Durant to rock the backpack during his sessions with the media.  However, some fans may be disappointed with what’s actually in it.  According to Durant, “iPad, headphones, bible and phone chargers,” is all he carries.

Nike is has wisely decided to capitalize off this entertaining fad.  Durant, unlike LeBron, is one of the most loved players in the NBA.  When young basketball players go to purchase his shoes, they’ll almost certainly feel obligated to buy the matching backpack.

While Nike looks to profit off Durant’s choice in style, Durant himself has other things to worry about.  One huge one will be slowing down the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki’s quest to enhance his legacy. After the Game 1 loss, Durant will need his teammate Russell Westbrook (3-15 shooting in Game 1) — not his backpack – to have any chance of bouncing back.

When you look at the way Durant used to be, this revelation is actually surprising.

Kevin Durant and Greivis Vasquez were High School Buddies at Montrose Christian

Kevin Durant and Greivis Vasquez are squaring off against each other in the NBA playoffs, but they’re actually used to playing on the same side. TNT shared a story about Vasquez and Durant during Game 4 of the Grizzlies-Thunder playoff series, giving some background on how close the two are. Folks from the Maryland-area probably already knew that Grizzlies backup guard Greivis Vasquez and Thunder star Kevin Durant were high school teammates, but for most people it was a surprise to learn they played together in high school.

In fact, Marty Smith of TNT reported that “Vasquez and Durant were best friends in high school.” He added that Durant was one of the guys who taught Vasquez how to speak English while the two were teammates at Montrose Christian. Vasquez is from Venezuela and did not come to the U.S. until 2004 when he arrived to play basketball and attend high school. Another aspect of their relationship Snyder shared is that the two would arrive at school at 6:30 in the morning and shoot around until school started. He also said that Durant took the train to school at 4:30 in the morning.

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Kevin Durant’s Backcourt Violation Idiotically Overturned by Refs, Rules Show

Kevin Durant had a spectacular game for Oklahoma City Wednesday night helping the Thunder close out the Nuggets for their first playoff series victory in franchise history. Durant tied a playoff career-high with 41 points on 14-for-27 shooting and he closed with 16 points in the fourth quarter. But there was one moment where Durant made a mistake and the referees bailed him out.

The Thunder were inbounding the ball in the front court with about 15 seconds left and leading 98-97. Durant caught the ball in the front court, then his back foot stepped on the midcourt line (picture on the left), he took a dribble, and then he stepped on the line again (picture on the right). He was whistled for a backcourt violation but somehow the call was overturned.

Thanks to the bailout, the Thunder got the ball back and Durant hit a runner to make it 100-97 with 12 seconds left. Instead of shooting for the lead, the Nuggets were essentially forced into taking a three to tie — a much lower percentage shot.

Now just so you don’t think this is some hating on the refs by a Nuggets homer (I actually wanted OKC to win the series), here are the applicable rules from NBA.com that show the refs completely blew the call.

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Kevin Durant Defends Russell Westbrook’s Shot Selection After Game 4

The Oklahoma City Thunder missed an opportunity to sweep the Denver Nuggets when they lost Monday evening in Game 4 104-101. OKC was actually down by 10 with under three minutes to play yet they were able to make it a one-possession game in the final minute. Unfortunately they were unable to tie the game or take the lead because Russell Westbrook missed three three pointers (including a buzzer-beating heave at the end of the game).

Not only did Westbrook’s shot selection appear questionable because of his poor results, but also because he didn’t defer to the team’s perceived leader and franchise player, Kevin Durant. Durant happened to be nearly flawless from three-point range in the game, going 5-for-6.

Folks on twitter were killing Westbrook for not deferring to Durant while the TNT analysts called him out for trying to be the hero. After the game though, Durant had Westbrook’s back.

“We got some good looks, Russell got some good looks … he shot the three it rimmed out,” Durant said about the game’s ending.

He was then asked some tough questions by the media where he could have called out his teammate, but he refused to take the bait.

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Kevin Durant Says Chris Bosh Is a ‘Fake Tough Guy’ and Is Right

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant got into a mild incident with Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh on Sunday during the Heat’s win. The two merely exchanged words after Thunder guard James Harden went in for a fast-break layup and was fouled hard by Bosh. Apparently Durant told Harden to dunk on Bosh the next time, and Bosh essentially said that wasn’t going to happen. They each got technical fouls, and Durant had more words after the loss.

“I’m a quiet guy, a laid back guy,” Durant said. “But I’m not going to let nobody talk trash to me. He’s on a good team now so he thinks he can talk a little bit. But it’s a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he’s one of them.”

Durant’s self-description is pretty accurate, and I think most people would categorize Chris Bosh the same way. Bosh is generally laid back and quiet, and has even admitted as much. But being on a great team like the Heat with all the backup they have certainly can inflate one’s ego. That’s happened with Bosh, and Durant is exactly right. Thing is, Bosh’s team is good enough to back him up, and apparently he was feeling good after returning from his ankle injury to do that kind of talking.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki (Durant and LeBron pictured, not Bosh)

Kevin Durant Turns Down Invite to LeBron’s Party, Reminds Us He’s The Man

It’s no secret that we’re big Kevin Durant fans here at LBS.  Last year, the Thunder star emerged as a clear-cut MVP candidate but was not given the honor.  His “where amazing happens” t-shirt may have seemed slightly out of character, but we still thought it was hilarious.  While LeBron James was holding a special on ESPN to reveal where he was signing in free agency, Durant was in the comfort of his own home hammering out an extension with Oklahoma City.

I can’t speak for LB, but I like Kevin Durant even more after hearing that he turned down an invitation to LeBron James’ party.  LeBron was supposedly hosting a party at a theater in downtown Kansas City but Durant politely declined saying, “I don’t go out to parties the day before a game.  I don’t really go out much during the season.”

I’m not trying to crucify LeBron James for hosting a party during the preseason.  There’s really no problem with that, but Durant’s RSVP is just one of the many reasons he’s a more likable superstar than LeBron.  For such a young kid he just seems to have his priorities completely in line.  We’re talking preseason here.  Not a game.  Not a game…practice.  One of the best parts about LeBron going to Miami for me is that the wealth will have to be shared more with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.  That will take away from LeBron’s MVP resume and finally give Durant the shot he deserves.