Jason Whitlock filled in for Colin in The Herd on Memorial Day. Tonight, the center of the sports universe is Oracle Arena, in Oakland, for Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors and Thunder will play the first Conference Finals Game 7 since 2002. A trip to the NBA Finals is on the line, and the atmosphere promises to be Super Bowl-like.
Whitlock previously predicted the Thunder would win the series in 6 games. When the Thunder led the series 3 – 1, he looked like a genius. The Thunder dropped the last two games, including squandering a chance to close out the series on their home floor in Game 6. Their Game 6 fourth quarter implosion included a litany of turnovers and missed shots.
Now, with the series tied at 3 – 3, the pressure is squarely on the Thunder. They enter Game 7 as 7 point road underdogs. The Warriors’ hostile home crowd will likely resemble the movie “Gladiator”. In the history of Conference Finals Game 7’s, road teams are 6 -16.
Whitlock squarely blames Durant for the Thunder’s current predicament, as they sit on the verge of a historic playoff meltdown.
“Kevin Durant has tried to take this team straight to hell with a childlike style of play, and a childish understanding of what the NBA, and what basketball is all about. This is on Kevin Durant.”
There are two models for NBA superstars to follow when trying to closeout a series. One is the Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant model. It consists of a superstar taking over a game by dominating the ball and willing their team to a series win with volume scoring.
Durant is attempting to follow the Kobe/Michael model and failing. He’s shooting 40% in the series, and 5- 27 from three. He’s 9 – 36 in fourth quarters in the series.
The second model is the Magic Johnson, Larry Bird model of closing out a series. It involves deferring to teammates early, to allow the entire team to get into the flow of the game. This is the strategic approach LeBron James often takes. He’s headed to his sixth straight Finals.
Whitlock thinks in order to win this series, Durant needs to be more like Magic, Larry Bird and LeBron. Primarily, he needs to figure out how to bring out the best in Russell Westbrook. After 9 years in the NBA, Durant has yet to do that.
“If Kevin Durant knew how to be a better Batman, Russell Westbrook would be a better Robin.”
14 year NBA veteran Jim Jackson joined the show, and said It’s a mistake for Durant to emulate Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, because few players have the same killer instinct.
“Not many players are on that Michael Jordan/Kobe level anyway. Just from a mentality, let alone having the game to do it. Those guys have a short memory. They were insensitive to the fact that when things didn’t go right, or teammates didn’t like it, or like what they were doing, they didn’t care.
That’s why they were able to succeed and be that killer on the court, game in and game out. Kevin Durant’s personality has never been like that.”