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Thunder’s Kevin Durant eager to atone

May 15, 2011

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— Kevin Durant had trouble sleeping, trying to shake off the worst playoff performance yet in his young NBA career.

After the league’s scoring champion managed just 11 points in Oklahoma City’s loss that set up Game 7 today against the Memphis Grizzlies, Durant woke up Saturday still thinking about what went wrong.

Durant took nine of his 14 shots from behind the arc, and he made only one basket over the last 45 minutes of the game.

“It was tough,” Durant said. “That’s a part of this league. It’s going to happen.

“Especially being one of the main guys, I tend to take a lot of the pressure and put it on myself. But it is what it is. I’ve got to fight through it, I’ve got to continue to be positive around my guys and go from there.”

At least by morning, his dreams had taken a turn for the better.

“I made a lot of my shots, of course, in the dream. It wasn’t a nightmare,” Durant said. “I made some shots and we won the game.

“But that’s just a dream.”

Like most of the other players in a matchup of two of the NBA’s rising young teams, Durant has never experienced a Game 7. The Thunder lost to the Lakers in six games in the first round of last year’s playoffs, then beat Denver in five to advance this year.

The closest he could relate to the winner-take-all stakes was the NCAA Tournament — where his Texas Longhorns were eliminated in the second round in his only year in college.

Memphis’ star, Zach Randolph, doesn’t have it much better. He went to Game 7 with Portland in his second year in the league, helping the Blazers rally from an 0-3 deficit to tie up the series before losing the finale. His teams had missed the playoffs each of the seven years since before Memphis’ current bid to be the first No. 8 seed to reach the West finals.

The winner advances to face the Mavericks starting Tuesday night in Dallas.

“We know what we’re playing for,” Randolph said. “We know it’s the last game, and we know whoever wins this game goes to the next round, goes to the finals. So, it’s going to be different.”

Oklahoma City’s franchise hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 1997 as the Seattle SuperSonics, losing to Houston in the West semifinals. The Sonics also lost twice and won once in Game 5 of a best-of-five series since then.

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