The toughest task in the NBA these days is trying to slow down Kevin Durant.
In the Oklahoma City Thunder’s last 10 games, Durant has averaged 33.0 points per game and made 58.1 percent of his shots. The 6-foot-9 forward has one of the fastest releases in the sport, but if a defender crowds him too much on the perimeter, Durant just as easily can drive to the hoop. Durant also attempts more free throws per game than any other player in the league.
Tonight, the Orlando Magic will try to slow down Durant when they host the Thunder at Amway Center.
“He’s a tough guard for every person in this league, and I’m quite sure every guy and every coach admits it,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’s just that good.”
On Dec. 15, when the Thunder beat the Magic 101-98 in Oklahoma City, Durant scored 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. But the Magic kept him off the foul line, limiting him to just five attempts.
That night, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless took turns guarding Durant.
The Magic trailed in that game by as many as 16 points midway through the fourth quarter but ultimately cut the deficit to two points with 22 seconds remaining.
“They have a really good team,” Durant said moments ago, after the Thunder completed their shootaround.
“Their record doesn’t really tell how good a team they have from top to bottom, from Jameer [Nelson] to Afflalo, Tobias Harris, Glen Davis and [Nik] Vucevic. All of them have put up big numbers in this league before, and Afflalo’s playing at an All-Star level. Vucevic is one of the best centers in the league. So, we have our work cut out for us.”
Then again, the Magic (14-37) really have their work cut out for them against the Thunder (40-11), who have the league’s second-best record and haven’t let up despite Russell Westbrook’s recent absence because of a knee injury.
“They’re a long, athletic team,” Afflalo said. “They’re well-coached, well-disciplined. Obviously, they have a lot of talent. So, it’s just going to be a team defensive effort, and then being smart about the things that we do offensively to protect ourselves. We can’t turn the ball over. We can’t take bad shots.”
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun