Before the First Round series between L.A. and Oklahoma City began, the most intriguing individual matchup pitted one of the league’s best scorers, Kevin Durant, against one of basketball’s preeminent 1-on-1 defenders, Ron Artest.
Fun for everyone watching, no doubt.
After five games, it’s hard to think of another situation in which two people would be so close to one another in a two-hour span, Artest so determined to intercept, impede and frustrate each and every movement of the third year forward.
While Durant’s had his moments, there’s no question that his production has been limited by Artest, who fights through every screen, tracks every cut and follows each of Durant’s body movements.
From his regular season averages, Durant’s scoring is down 5.3 points (30.1 to 24.8), his shooting percentage 9.4 percent (47.6% to 38%) and his three-point percentage 9.8 percent (36.5 to 26.7), while his turnovers are up from 3.3 to 4.2.
Durant’s best scoring game came in L.A.’s 95-92 Game 2 victory, in which he managed 32 points on 12-of-26 shooting, while he grabbed a series-high 19 rebounds in OKC’s 101-96 Game 3 win.
Meanwhile, Artest is the first to point out that he hasn’t been too worried about his offense, as witnessed by his 8.4 points on just 35 percent shooting, though he did have his best offensive game in Tuesday’s Game 5 by posting 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including two three-pointers.
Still, Artest’s focus into Game 6 in Oklahoma City, when the Lakers will try and shut the series’ door, remains on Kevin Durant.
“I’d like to slow him down for the whole series, but tonight’s a different night, so we’ll see,” said Artest.
Tune in to 710 ESPN radio for a 6:30 p.m. tip, or watch on KCAL/9 or ESPN to see for yourself.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter (@LakersReporter) for live updates throughout the game.