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OAKLAND — Kevin Durant is staggeringly consistent in the playoffs — and he attributes that to conversations he had with his family as a child.
“I always had that pressure coming home at nights,” Durant said. “My mom asks me what happened if I had a bad game. My godfather asked me why I didn’t play so well. Just having that little pressure stayed with me as a kid up until today. Just wanting to play well each game. Just wanting to give it my all in practice, shootaround and workouts — and then in games, I can live with myself.”
Having that mentality has paid off for Durant in dividends over his NBA career. Over his last seven postseason appearances, Durant has averaged between 28.4 points and 30.8 points. The strikingly small variance is unusual, even among superstars.
Take Cleveland’s LeBron James for example — his postseason averages have varied from 23.7 points a game to 33.4 over the last eight years. Or Steph Curry, whose postseason averages have swung from 28.3 points a game to 22 over the last four years.
For Durant, those late night conversations with his mother still reverberate in his psyche. And he’s incredibly grateful for that.
“It’s cool to have that type of — I don’t want to call it fear because that’s such a dangerous word. But you don’t want to be satisfied or content,” Durant said. “You want to keep going and see what happens at the end of the road.”
Throughout the 2018 NBA playoffs, Durant has averaged 29.6 points a game, most recently scoring 38 points in the Warriors’ 127-105 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said Durant has been “fantastic” throughout the postseason, attributing his repeated success to him being able to turn it up a notch come playoff time. Durant has averaged more points in the playoffs than in the regular season in all but one of his postseason appearances since 2011.
“Well, first thing it takes is talent,” Kerr said. “The guy is so gifted that he’s going to score no matter what the defense does. The second thing — what I’ve noticed with KD in my two years of coaching him — there’s a different level of focus and intensity from him come playoff time. He’s locked into the playoffs. He’s locked in, he wants to win, he’s competing. And when he’s locked in like that, like most players, he plays better.”
Durant said he pours himself into how he can get better every day. And whenever he has free time, he hones in on those things in individual workouts.
“The trial and error of the game is what I really enjoy the most,” Durant said. “Doing something well and then not doing something well — and trying to figure out how you can turn that into a strength. I think that’s something I always tried to focus on as a basketball player and it’s allowed me to get this far.
“So, I’m going to continue to just keeping being an open book with myself as a player, see how far I can take it, and take a little bit of risk as well. I just think playing a game within the game has allowed me to be confident out there. And just my love of the game has allowed me to leave it all out there as well.”
Durant’s family may have helped drive him to become as talented and unflappably consistent as he is. But when asked if he still worries about answering to his mother after a rare off night, he chuckled.
“No, I’m a professional now,” Durant said. “I take care of that stuff on my own now.”
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