OKLAHOMA CITY George Karl doesnt know if theres much more his Denver Nuggets can do to slow down the NBAs scoring champion and his All-Star sidekick.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 72 points in Oklahoma Citys Game 1 victory over Denver, yet Karl doesnt believe his Nuggets were that far off on defense.
Karl said Tuesday his breakdown of the game tape had Durant and Westbrook going a combined 18-for-25 on jump shots. And 14 of the made baskets came with a Denver players hand in their face.
Those are exactly the kind of shots Karl wants Denvers defense to force.
You want to overreact to that? You want to go off and double-team and give up open jump shots? Im not there yet, Karl said after the Nuggets practice at the Oklahoma City Arena.
Especially when most of the game we were in a comfort zone, and we had a hell of a chance to win the game.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
To vanquish the Nuggets 107-103 in Game 1, Durant and Westbrook the NBAs highest scoring tandem other than Miamis LeBron James and Dwyane Wade during the regular season combined for more points in regulation than they did in any regular-season game. The only time they had more in a game was when Durant scored 40 and Westbrook 35 in a double-overtime win against Washington in January.
We did some things that we really wanted to do against them, Karl said. So, do you want to change up to maybe take more concern about Westbrook and Durant scoring big numbers, or do you want to make sure you keep your foundation of what you definitely want to do against them?
I personally think its a game of little adjustments more than big adjustments.
Durant was able to handle a variety of defenders thrown at him by Denver on Sunday night, including the lanky Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, a beefier Kenyon Martin and even 6-1 point guard Raymond Felton.
He shot over the shorter defenders, drove past the bigger ones and got to the foul line when his shots werent falling. He scored 20 of his 41 points on 2-point baskets, 12 on free throws and nine on 3-pointers in a well-rounded performance.
It makes you think a little bit more because youre used to going against one defender, Durant said. But when they send Kenyon Martin, Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and even Felton sometimes, youve got to switch things up. I was able to switch a few things up.
I shot some bad shots, and I got some turnovers, but I was able to just stick with it, and if I saw an opening, just try to be aggressive and try to make the right passes.
Martin suggested several strategies Denver could use to slow Durant including sending a double-team to make him pass and making him work harder on defense. He recalled that Durant used to need to cover Carmelo Anthony on defense when he played the Nuggets, and that boy beats you up bad when hes got the ball, so that takes your legs a little bit.
Youve got to make him guard, youve got to make him pass the ball make him do the things that didnt get him drafted, Martin said. Scoring got him drafted. ... They didnt draft Kevin Durant because hes an excellent passer or hes a lockdown defender. I know this for a fact.
Karl, though, was resistant to sending double-teams that could create open shots elsewhere when he felt Durant and Westbrook had success despite being closely guarded. He also was hesitant to go to a zone an effective tool for a handful of Thunder opponents this season when he hasnt practiced it much with a roster that was overhauled when Anthony was traded in February.
I cant worry about that, Durant said. Ive just got to worry about going out there and playing my game, just going out there and playing hard and being aggressive on the offensive end and going from there. If they do double, I know Ive got faith in my teammates that theyll come through.
Oklahoma City depended heavily on Durant and Westbrook in Game 1, with both scoring at least 30 points in the same game something they did only five times in the regular season. Only one other player Eric Maynor with 12 had more than five points in Game 1.
We did OK. We do need to do a better job giving those guys some outlets, but I thought we were solid, Nick Collison said. A lot of things we do are not in terms of scoring points.
And Karl wants to keep it that way.
I dont want to give them rebounds, I dont want to give them transition layups, and I want to play like we played the last three quarters of the game trying not to foul, Karl said. We win the free throw line. They dont win the free throw line.
Those are our foundations, and it has nothing to do with Westbrook and Durant.