38-point barrage in Game 3 vs Jazz exactly why Warriors added Durant

38-point barrage in Game 3 vs Jazz exactly why Warriors added Durant

SALT LAKE CITY -- This is why the Warriors moved heaven and earth and most of its seas to add Kevin Durant to their roster.

Not the regular season, though it’s important, but the postseason.

And not just any postseason game or series, but those moments when Stephen Curry isn’t magical and Klay Thompson isn’t on one of his absurd scoring sprees.

It’s those times when the stakes are high and Warriors need someone else’s back to board.

That was Durant on Saturday night in Salt Lake City, bringing high emotion and stellar production in leading the Warriors to a 102-91 victory that has them one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the third consecutive season.

“Myself, the other 19,000 people in the arena and everyone else watching on TV saw the same thing I saw,” Curry said.

“When he started getting going early, I just felt like it could be a big night for him,” acting head coach Mike Brown said. “And it was.”

Scoring a game-high 38 points -- 13 in the opening quarter -- grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds and engaging Jazz center Rudy Gobert in the briefest of shoving matches in the final minutes of the game, Durant delivered on the vision shared by coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers and CEO Joe Lacob.

Durant found points when nobody else could, gifting the Warriors with a victory they otherwise would not have earned. He shot 15-of-26 (57.7 percent), while his teammates combined for 22-of-58 (37.9 percent).

Durant made threes, four of them. He got in a couple dunks. He thrived in isolation, at one point torching Jazz forward Gordon Hayward on three consecutive possessions.

“I’m going try to say this is humbly as I can,” Durant said. “But I’ve been doing this for so long and every time I roll out of the bed and we have a game that day, I feel like I can go out there and score.

“It’s the other things I try to do. Defensively helping my teammates, get them open shots, moving and setting screens. Scoring . . . it’s not easy, but it’s what I do the best. I try to do the other things . . . and once I do that, I feel like it opens up my scoring a little bit more.”

Curry, who was 4-of-18 through three quarters before draining both his shots in the fourth, took note of Durant’s rhythm.

“It’s an easy decision at that moment, try to set a screen for him, get him in the right spot and he does the rest,” he said. “We’re smart enough basketball players and know what’s going on at that moment, and just try to make the right decision, and let a talented scorer like he is, like he said the way he approaches the game, let (him) do what he does.”

Given the circumstances and the opponent, the Durant explosion was bound to happen. In a league where only a handful of players can hope to contain Durant, no one on the Utah team has a whispered rumor of a chance to slow him.

In the wake of Game 2, when Durant scored a team-high 25 points on 6-of-13 shooting, he pointed out that he was just starting to get his legs back. He missed nearly six weeks in March and early April with a knee sprain and bone bruise, and then sustained a calf strain in Game 1 of the first-round series against Portland.

Durant had not played four full games in a row since February.

Having played in Game 4 as the Warriors ousted the Trail Blazers, Game 3 of the series against Utah was his fourth consecutive game. Durant was comfortable, inviting contact and destroying anything that got in his way.

When Gobert shoved him an elbow in the fourth quarter, Durant shoved back -- and paid for it. He was whistled for a flagrant-1 and a technical foul.

“He rose up and was playing like who he is,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder, unable to conceal his exasperation.

The Warriors knew when they sent a recruiting team to the Hamptons to persuade him to join them that Durant is a game-changer. And there it was, on full display, when the Warriors absolutely needed it.


Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.