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Kevin Durant says best-of-7 series vs. Rockets a series they’ll never forget

Kevin Durant has battled through more than just another series with the Golden State Warriors, but also an internal war with his own identity as a player — going from an ultra-effective scoring machine in Game 1 and 2, to a shot-hoisting assassin delving back into his old iso-heavy ways through the rest of the series.

Escaping Houston with a chance to win another championship in the upcoming NBA Finals is surely special, but this series will leave a lasting imprint in Durant’s career.

“It’s just another step, another step in your journey that I can pinpoint, once I’m done playing and say, ‘Well, I went through this, too,’ ” Durant told Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports as he exited the arena after scoring a game-high 34 points. “When I’m talking to a younger player or — who knows? — if I’m coaching in a couple years, 10 to 12 years from now, I’ll have an opportunity to look back and say, ‘The second year I was with the Warriors, we tried to get to a back-to-back championship, going Game 7 in the Western Conference and we won on the road.’ I can say that now. And give back my experience to someone else. It was cool to see us figure it out as a team and break through as a team.”

Nothing was more evident in Durant’s inner battle with himself than his first and second halves of Game 7 — two polar opposites of each other.

First-quarter Durant was a shot-hoisting, free-range All-Star trying to keep his team within striking distance, but struggling to connect and making uncharacteristic mistakes on defense — seemingly disconnected from the game at hand.

Second-quarter Durant demonstrated a poise to his game, more patient and willing to look for the right opportunity, taking advantage of mismatches and showing why he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

More than in any other series, Durant has faced adversity not only as a member of a team, but as an individual — now triumphantly having figured himself out within a series and en route to a second-straight NBA Finals.

“I’m just so happy I get to play again in the Finals,” Durant said. “To go through a Game 7 on the road, to go through that with these guys for the first time, all our first time doing this, it brought us closer as a group and it’s a series that we’ll probably never forget as we get older.”