By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Thunder backup center Enes Kanter is playing up to that new contract of his at exactly the right time, the playoffs.
Kanter’s offensive ability and point production may be needed more than ever if the NBA forces superstar Kevin Durant to sit for Game 5 after KD popped Mavs rookie Justin Anderson across the head late in OKC’s 119-108 Game 4 win earning a flagrant foul “2” call and an automatic ejection.
The NBA league office is expected to review the play and could suspend Durant for Monday’s Game 5.
Kanter meanwhile has been even more effective in this first round playoff series than he was in the regular season, shooting 73 percent from the field and averaging 17.5 points per game.
Last night Kanter was 12-for-13 and led the Thunder with 28 points. He was a frequent target of passes from Russell Westbrook who finished with 15 assists.
Every time Dallas made a run last night, there was Kanter either putting back a missed shot from a teammate or rolling wide open through the lane to grab a pass from Westbrook and score the basket.
That kind of sure fire production has been a great safety valve for OKC while superstars Durant and Westbrook have struggled at times with their own shooting.
But the primary worry about Durant at the moment is just making sure he can play Monday night.
This series has been physical and chippy and accusations of dirty play have been fired back and forth and Durant has delivered a couple of shots that have particularly upset Dallas.
The elbow in Game 3 to Salah Mejri and last night’s swipe across the face on Anderson which KD admits was his fault and a big mistake but nothing more than that.
“It was just bad timing, I wasn’t trying to hurt him.” Durant was trying to bloack Anderson’s shot from behind, a move he’s made successfully several times this season.
Durant and Anderson have a history and a good one. They both attended the same high school and had the same coach. In fact Durant has texted Anderson several times this season encouraging him during his rookie season.
“He’s helped me a lot during my ups and downs this season,” Anderson told reporters after the game. “We have a good relationship.”
Durant said he tried to personally apologize to Anderson before being escorted back to the Thunder lockerroom but he wasn’t allowed to get close to the Mavs bench, instead he tapped his chest and mouthed “my bad” as he looked for Anderson.
As soon as he could he reached out via text message.
“I texted him and told him I wasn’t trying to hurt him at all. There are plenty of plays where I’ve blocked shots from behind like that. It was just bad timing.”
Durant’s coach backed up what KD told reporters.
“He said to me ‘I didn’t wanna do that, that’s not what I wanted to do,’” Billy Donovan said Durant told him right after the play. “I think his intention was to make a play on the ball.”
And after the dustup Anderson didn’t seem to be any worse for the wear.
“It didn’t hurt me, I’m here talking about it now.”
And after the game Durant and Anderson, along with their old high school coach, got together in a back hallway of American Airlines Center for handshakes and photographs so all appears to be cool with them.
Now we’ll wait and see if the NBA is willing to forgive and forget too.