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If LeBron is the mortal enemy, then Kevin Durant is the NBA’s beloved son. He’s the savior that will promote and empower the ideal NBA role model. He’ll end world hunger. He’ll find a cure for cancer. He’ll broker a peace in the Middle East. When Russell Westbrook refused to defer to his lankier teammate, we were personally offended. So what did we do? We vilified him (myself included). Shipping Westbrook out of Oklahoma City went from blasphemous to welcomed. And it only happened because our love for Durant is unabashed and unflappable.
With no teammates to steal the spotlight, Durant will be able to remind us why we had no problem ignoring his inability to bench press 185 pounds. Against the shorter Monta Ellis, he’ll have no problem creating shots and collecting rebounds. If this weren’t loser’s ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if Durant reeled off 11 in a row. But Ellis’ quickness may prove to be problematic for the gangly sharpshooter. It isn’t in Durant’s DNA to barrel over defenders – he prefers to slide past or rise above. Knowing Ellis, he’ll be pesky. Reaching in, flailing his arms, doing whatever it takes to bother Durant. If Monta can force him into multiple rise and fires, this game could get real close. All it takes is a few Durant misses to swing momentum in the Golden State guard’s favor.
But Ellis won’t come to play; he’ll come to win. He’s toiled in anonymity in Golden State, relatively unappreciated and watching his prime years being wasted by poor management. If and when he finds a new home, maybe more will realize that this cat can score on anyone.
Countless doubters have played the height card against him and lost. Durant’s wingspan may prove bothersome, but bothersome just isn’t good enough. Unless you’re swatting his shot into the stands, Ellis will put it in the bucket more often than not, because his near-the-hoop arsenal is more dangerous and versatile than most give him credit for. If he’s soaring through the paint with the ball in hand, count on him to flip it, scoop it, lay it up or even dunk it. If he drops a few in a row, don’t be surprised if frustration begins to seep in for Durant. There’s nothing worse than watching a little guy score when you were inches from a devastating block.
Unending tattoos vs. hardly-visible tattoos. Freak athlete vs. undersized, positionless guard. Well-spoken vs. mumbling. Durant may seem like the obvious choice, but Ellis could easily spring the frustrating but not surprising upset.
Jay Bilas: “Ellis has turned into such a terrific player. When he was drafted, I wasn’t convinced he would be anywhere near this good. But, he is better than anyone thought. Ellis has a real hunger to score, and is fearless. But, Durant can score from anywhere, and his length will be the difference. Durant can bother shots, and Ellis will have a harder time doing that.”
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