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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Nets look to cool KD's hot hand

By Mike Mazzeo

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Right now, Kevin Durant is playing like few other players have ever played, scoring like few other players have ever scored.

And the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Durant, who looks like a power forward but plays like a shooting guard, continues to elicit comparisons to some of the NBA’s all-time greats.

“He is George Gervin and Dirk Nowitzki all mixed into one,” Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd said Thursday of Durant. “He’s [6-9] and he can put it on the floor. He’s shown he can pass and rebound, so he’s shown he has the total package.”

Kevin Durant
You can't stop Kevin Durant. So the Nets hope to contain him Friday night.
Especially recently.

Ever since sidekick Russell Westbrook went down with yet another knee injury, Durant has turned into the best one-man show in the league, putting the Oklahoma City Thunder on his back and carrying them to the top of the Western Conference standings.

Just look at his point totals without Westbrook: 34, 33, 37, 24, 48, 21, 48, 30, 33, 37, 36, 54, 30, 46, 36, 32, 41 and 33.

He’s scored 30 or more points in 12 straight games, averaging 38.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 54.4 percent shooting in 39.8 minutes over that span.

On Wednesday night, 1B got the best of 1A, as Durant scored 33 points to lead the Thunder to a 17-point win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat. James may be the player you’d pick to start your franchise with, but Durant has emerged as the favorite to capture the 2013-14 MVP award.

Asked if Durant is the best offensive player in the NBA, Nets point guard Deron Williams simply responded, “Yeah.”

“He’s a 6-9 shooting guard. He’s quick, fast, good in transition. When you contest his shot it doesn’t really effect him,” Williams replied when asked to expand. “He can post-up. He just doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses in his game offensively.

“His numbers are crazy. It takes a special player to put up those types of numbers.”

The Nets, who are expected to pursue Durant with an all-out full-court press in the summer of 2016, assuming he becomes a free agent then, as expected, have the “pleasure” of facing the 25-year-old phenom and the Thunder Friday night at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn is one of the few teams that have been able to contain Durant during his recent run of dominance, “holding him” to 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting in 34 minutes on Jan. 2 in Oklahoma City. With Durant in foul trouble, the Nets turned around their season that night, having gone 10-2 since getting off to a 10-21 start in 2013.

Long defenders Shaun Livingston and Andrei Kirilenko were able to contain Durant as best they could -- and it was more than good enough when Joe Johnson stuck yet another game-winning buzzer-beater.

“Well, he’s one of those players, as I said, we probably have like 10 superstars in the league who are impossible to guard 1-on-1, and you have to work as a team to guard them, so he’s one of those,” Kirilenko said. “Lately he’s been hot, making a lot of shots, shooting a great percentage, so all you need to do is just break his percentage. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do.”

So how, exactly, do you contain Durant?

“He’s seen everything: from long guys to short guys to fast guys to tall guys,” Kidd said, “so it’s just a matter of trying to give him different looks and get him off balance. But right now, the stretch he’s going through is like you can put two or three guys on him and he’ll find a way to score.”