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Mavs have controlled NBA scoring leader

12/27/2010

OKLAHOMA CITY -- As phenomenal as last season was for Kevin Durant, he still couldn't extract the one thorn in his side: The Dallas Mavericks' defense.

Since he entered the league as a rookie with the Seattle SuperSonics through his third season when he emerged as a bona fide MVP candidate with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant has put up more bricks against Dallas' defense than any other in the league -- and that's when the Mavs had been considered only decent defenders.

In Durant's career, he's averaged fewer than 20 points a game against just two teams -- Dallas (18.7) and Orlando (17.6), but he's played more than twice as many games against the Mavs (11) as the Magic (five). His career field goal percentage is below 40 percent against only two teams, the same two: 37.4 percent (68-of-182) against the Mavs; 37.0 percent (30-of-81) against the Magic.

Last season was even worse against Dallas for the amazing Durant. He shot just 31.7 percent (26-of-82) from the floor while averaging 22.5 points -- nearly eight below his season average -- and 4.5 turnovers.

But as the Mavs (23-5) head to Oklahoma City (21-10) on Monday night for a second time this season, the only game Dallas remembers is the last one. Durant scored 32 points and was 12-of-20 from the field. The Mavs won, 111-103, with tenacious fourth-quarter defense, but the league's leading scorer had finally done some damage.

"He gets his shots from such a variety of fashion, from 3, from 2, in transition," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "What we've got to do is make it tough on him. Defensively make him work and on offense we've got to put some pressure on him and make him play some defense, get him tired a little bit."

The Denver Nuggets came in with a similar idea, but Durant scored 44 in a 114-106 victory on Christmas.

"Denver threw everything at him but the kitchen sink," said Dwane Casey, the Mavs' defensive coordinator who will handle the head coaching duties Monday night with Rick Carlisle sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week. "We've got to be creative, [use] different matchups and different looks for a guy like that. Because once a guy like that gets going, it's hard to turn him off. Not only that, he's a very willing passer and you've got guys like [James] Harden, [Russell] Westbrook, [Jeff] Green that can jump up and hit you for 20.

"We have to make sure we are exact on what we want to do on his isos [isolations], on his post-ups, on his catch-and-shoots. Giving him different looks is the most important thing."

Mavs center Tyson Chandler had a little something to do with the Mavs' fourth-quarter defense in the first game that limited Durant to 3-of-7 from the floor in the final period with two baskets coming in the final half-minute, when the game was securely in the Mavs' hands.

Chandler also got to see Durant up close during the summer when he was Durant's teammate on the gold medal-winning Team USA at the World Championships. Chandler was asked if he discovered any secrets to defending Durant.

"I really tried. I watched him and watched him and watched him, but as much as he works, he works on things that he feels he's not good at to become great at," Chandler said. "So he doesn't have many weak spots. He's 6-11 (he's officially listed at 6-foot-9), can handle the ball like a guard, shoots like a 2 and has the size of a big man minus the weight. And he knows how to get fouls, too. So he's a very versatile, all-around player."