Lost in the eternal pursuit of a high quality shot by any NBA team on a given possession in the name of efficiency is this reality: you’re always going to have bad possessions. End of the shot clock, up against a trap, heat checking, trying too hard to victimize a mismatch, all these things happen routinely. Playing a defense like Boston’s is essentially a battle of which team winds up in worse possessions. But that’s where star players come in.
Star players are able to convert low percentage shots at a high rate. Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, these players can turn those contested fadeaways into points where others cannot. It’s a double-edged sword, but it’s also a very useful one when you have guys who can hit tough shots.
That’s what makes Kevin Durant so ridiculously dangerous. He doesn’t go to the well so often that he hurts his team, but he can also hit any shot, from anywhere, no matter the contest. Don’t believe me? Ask LeBron James, who said this at practice availability on Saturday:
LeBron on KD: “Well, I mean, like you say, you can’t stop KD, you just don’t try to give him easy ones. You don’t want to give him an easy dunk in transition where you didn’t get back on defense, or you give him a transition D because you didn’t communicate and gave up and things like that of course, but he’s going to make shots. He can make any shot the game has to offer, off the dribble, off the catch and shoot, off pindowns, he can make every shot. You just try to wear on him, but he’s going to make his shots and get his points because of the type of player he is.”
This is correct. We think of Durant for the jumpshot the same way we think of LeBron James for the dunk, the two shots emblematic of their playstyles. But both have the capacity to do the other. James’ off-balance, inconsistent jumper still goes in a large percentage of the time, Durant can still throw down with the best of them. Keeping him away from the basket isn’t going to force him into a low percentage. Nothing will. But it’ll give you a fighting chance at scraping off a few points, six maybe, and in a series this close, that may be enough to win.
In a series like this, it’s all a game of inches.