Doc Rivers praises Kevin Durant
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Kevin Durant is a virtual lock to win his fourth scoring title this season. He could win his first MVP award, too.
And as far as Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is concerned, he's already "the single most difficult guy to defend" in the NBA.
"I've said that for three years," Rivers said Tuesday, on the eve of his team's showdown with the Thunder in a game that could determine the top three seeds in the Western Conference playoffs. " ... and even when you defend him well, in most cases, he just missed the shot.
"He's unique. I guess if you gave George Gervin 5 more inches, he'd be similar. But I don't think we've ever seen a Durant. He's Kevin Durant."
Durant is running away with the scoring title, averaging 32.1 points per game, which is 4.6 points more than second-place Carmelo Anthony. When he locks it up, Durant will be just the fifth player in NBA history to win at least four scoring titles.
He also has been on a historic binge. Durant has scored 25 or more points in 41 straight games, the third-longest single-season streak in NBA history.
He passed Michael Jordan on that list Sunday. Next up is Oscar Robertson, who scored 25 or more points in 46 straight games during the 1963-64 season. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record with 80 straight games of 25 or more in 1961-62.
Oklahoma City plays in Sacramento on Tuesday night before traveling to Los Angeles. In the Thunder's three games against the Clippers this season, Durant is averaging 34.3 points and 9.3 assists, but his team is just 1-2 against them.
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Wednesday night's game could essentially settle which of those teams has the inside track on the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Both teams have 55 wins entering Tuesday, but the Clippers have two more losses than the Thunder. The Clippers have four games remaining, the Thunder have six (including Tuesday's game).
"I don't know if there's any more significance to it," Rivers said of the importance of Wednesday's game. "If we win, what does that mean? If we lose, what does that mean? Does that mean we get to beat them in the playoffs? You just want to beat them and they want to beat you. I don't think that changes.
"In the West, everybody's good. So I don't know what changing the seedings really means."
Still, it would be nice to win and have a shot at the 2-seed, which would guarantee home court through the second round of the playoffs.
"It's a big game. You can't really dance around that. They're right in front of us," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. "We have a chance, but it's still going to go up another level in the playoffs. It's not going to be quite like it is in the playoffs, but it will be an intense game."
Oklahoma City has gone just 12-9 since the All-Star break. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Thunder were allowing 99.3 points per 100 possessions prior to the break (third-best), but have yielded 104.8 since (15th in NBA).