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NBA: Durant’s Amazing ‘D’

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant is growing a little tired of questions about his ability to play defense.

“Underrated?” Durant responded when recently asked about the perception of his D. “My coaches don’t feel like that.”

Neither does he, and KD’s menacing, 6-foot-9 presence from the paint to the perimeter is a big reason unbeaten Golden State is closing in on its second championship in three years.

While best known for his sensational scoring and shot-making from every corner of the court, Durant has been tough on LeBron James so far in these NBA Finals by smothering the Cavs superstar. The Warriors are two wins from a title going into Game 3 at Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Durant is chasing his first championship and seems determined to do whatever it takes.

So versatile with his length and ability to alter shots, he even played center during Sunday’s Game 2 when Draymond Green dealt with foul trouble in the 132-113 victory.

“I don’t think there’s many teams in the league who their backup is better than their starter,” Green said. “So I think that’s a luxury that we have with KD here, and when I went out with foul trouble, obviously he — to say pick up the slack is kind of a ridiculous term, because he’s a great player, an MVP, one of the best players in the world. So just the way he played on the defensive end, the way he played on the offensive end, he’s been doing it all playoffs long, but in these Finals, he’s really picked it up, and it’s been huge for us.”

Durant and Green have set the tone all season on the defensive end, establishing an intensity and toughness — and the rest of the Warriors had no choice but to do more during Durant’s 19-game absence this spring with a knee injury.

“If we’re locked in on the defensive end, we’ll score enough points,” Green said. “Even on an off night, we’ll score enough points.”

After his NBA Finals failure five years ago against James and the Heat, Durant vowed to become a legitimate, respected defender who could make nearly as much of an impact blocking shots and crashing the boards.

He insists he can do even more.

“I’ve gotten better, and 2013 is when I feel I really turned the corner as a defender. Around 2012, that’s when coaches stopped thinking they could go at me and get a basket or get me in foul trouble,” Durant said. “But I don’t expect anybody on the outside who really doesn’t know the game to look at me as a defender because once you’re labeled something that’s what you’re going to be. But I feel the last four or five years I’ve definitely continued to get better and better, and smarter. I have the physical tools, but it’s also about mentally knowing what to do.”

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