Best Durant defender? Answer might surprise


DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks, as they do against most big-time scorers, will go to the rotation to defend Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.

"We’re going to have three or four guys ready to guard him," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "[Shawn] Marion will guard him for sure."

The 6-foot-7 Marion is considered the closest thing the Mavs have to a defensive stopper, unless you now count Jason Kidd after his work on Kobe Bryant. But let's not be silly, Kidd will not guard the 6-9 Durant, the playoffs' leading scorer at 28.9 points a game on 45.8 percent shooting. Kidd will have his hands full with stints against explosive 6-3 point guard Russell Westbrook.

And Kidd will get stints on Westbrook. Who else will guard him when DeShawn Stevenson is locked up with Durant? It might come as a surprise, but as ESPN Stats and Information dug up, the Mavs' 6-5 starting shooting guard has done the best job of anyone on Durant this season, at least in terms of shooting percentage (and really, what else is there?).

Since Durant entered the league four seasons ago with the Seattle SuperSonics, he has struggled from the floor against Dallas. That changed this season. He made 33-of-63 shot attempts -- which is quite impressive considering he was just 6-of-20 from 3-point range (making him 27-of-43, 62.8 percent on 2s) -- and averaged 29.3 points in the three games.

However, with Stevenson guarding him, Durant was just 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) from the floor, leaving him 27-of-44 (61.4 percent) against everyone else. ESPN Stats and Information research reveals that Durant went 5-of-9 against Marion and 4-of-7 against both Caron Butler and Kidd.

Durant's biggest scoring outputs, to little surprise, came in transition (9-of-13 field goals) and when unguarded or defended by someone other than the players mentioned above (5-of-8).

M0st interesting about these findings is that the Mavs' best Durant stopper has averaged just 12.8 minutes a game in the playoffs, about four minutes less than his regular-season average.

Stevenson played a season-tying-high 35 minutes in the third and final meeting against OKC on Jan. 6 when the Mavs played without Dirk Nowitzki and Butler. He also logged 20 minutes in the second meeting when Nowitzki went down early in the second quarter.

Will this mean Stevenson can expect a bump in minutes in this series? We'll soon find out.

Game 1 is at 8 tonight.