Kevin Durant made a foul line jump shot with two hands in his face with 1.5 seconds left in Game 1 of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Western Conference playoff opener. The ball took a lucky bounce above the rim and fell in, sending the fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena into delirium.
Does this remind anyone of last year?
The ending of the game almost did. Dirk Nowitzki went bonkers in the final quarter with 11 points in the final five minutes of the game. Several performances like that were key to the Mavs' wins over the Thunder in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. The Mavericks' big man sank the Thunder in Games 4 and 5 last year with huge fourth quarter comebacks.
Now the tables have turned. It was Durant with the dagger this time.
Plus this was the second game-winner the University of Texas product had against the Mavericks this season. NBC Sports recalls the buzzer-beater on Dec. 29 in which Durant let a 3-pointer fly with a hand in his face. Yeah, OKC won that game too.
You'd think the Mavericks would be tired of seeing Durant turn into Superman.
Durant scored six points in the third overtime of a playoff tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies May 10. That game tied the series at two games apiece and saved the playoff hopes of the Thunder with a gritty 133-123 victory.
This year's playoffs are Durant's for the taking. Derrick Rose is lost for the remainder of the playoffs with a torn ACL. The Chicago Bulls are suddenly vulnerable and may not even make it out of the first round due to the injury. Should the Thunder make it all the way to the NBA Finals, a date with the Miami Heat may be in order. A Durant-LeBron James matchup would be heaven for NBA fans.
The legend of the youngster from Washington, D.C. continues to grow. He won his third scoring title in a row over Kobe Bryant. Unlike Bryant, Durant is unselfish and humble. The torch has been passed. No longer are the Los Angeles Lakers the premier team in the Western Conference. A young gun by the name of Kevin Durant has become the new superstar over Bryant.
How far the Thunder go is up to the entire team. Yet I can't help wonder that their playoff fortunes rest on the shoulders of the new superhero in town.
William Browning has been a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder ever since the team relocated from Seattle. As the closest NBA team to Branson, Mo., the Thunder serve as the regional team for southwest Missouri.