The Brooklyn Nets are down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics in their best-of-seven first round playoff series. Nets superstar Kevin Durant is struggling through the first two games as the Celtics have completely taken him out of his rhythm with their defensive schemes.
FS1 talking head Shannon Sharpe believes that as the best player Durant needs to step up, and that his poor play is similar to a former teammate of Durant’s.
“Kevin Durant is turning into Russell Westbrook right before our eyes,” Sharpe said. “Missing shots and turning it over.”
.@ShannonSharpe on the Nets going down 0-2 to the Celtics:
"KD and Kyrie didn't show up. This is all about the best player on the planet: KD came up small again. KD is turning into Russell Westbrick right before our eyes: missing shots and turning it over." pic.twitter.com/hOZyE5XH1R
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) April 21, 2022
Through two games in this series KD is 13 of 41 from the field (31.7 percent), with 12 turnovers and eight assists. It’s the first time in his 13-year career he’s shot under 40 percent and committed 6+ TO in consecutive games, in the regular season or the playoffs. That stat alone is a testament to KD’s greatness.
That’s the problem.
When you put on Herculean efforts like he did last season in the playoffs, or when he was the best player on two title teams, or when he led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals at 23 years of age in 2012, people expect you to be unstoppable every time. In the aforementioned finals game, he averaged 30 points and six rebounds per game on 54/39/83 shooting splits against peak LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Of course Sharpe and all the other talking heads are doing this for clicks, social media virality and all the other asinine currency of the take economy. It’s not real.
What is real, is that through two games the Boston Celtics have executed a perfect team defensive strategy on maybe the best player alive. They are mixing their coverages, sending two, sometimes three, forcing KD to play in a crowd and using active hands.
“They’re playing two, three guys off me sometimes on me when I’m off the ball,” Durant said. “They’re mucking up actions when I run off stuff — I see [Al] Horford leaving his man to come over and hit me sometimes. Two or three guys hit me wherever I go. And that’s just the nature of the beast in the playoffs. I feel like I got a couple good shots there in the fourth that just didn’t go down, but I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball, and so I got to be more patient, but also play fast sometimes, too.”
The physicality wears on KD and you saw it particularly in game two when he was able to shake free and get clean looks, he was rushing or the shots were short. A sign of physical and mental fatigue.
KD suffered an MCL injury in his right knee in January and missed six weeks as he rehabbed. Prior to the injury, he was averaging 37.2 minutes per game — his highest since his 2013-14 MVP season.
In his last 11 games KD is averaging 41.27 minutes per game. That’s a lot at 33 years old, and remember Durant is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2019.
The ebb and flow in the NBA discourse around this time of year is ridiculous. Legacies are on the line, and bold proclamations are made after two games. Not a very big sample size.
Give the Celtics credit; they are executing their game plan against KD extremely well.