Dream of an eight-year-old comes true: Durant wins NBA Finals MVP


Dream of an eight-year-old comes true: Durant wins NBA Finals MVP

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant may have believed this was coming: The joyful season with the Warriors, new discoveries of basketball and beyond, a championship and, lastly, the Bill Russell award being placed in his hands.

Durant, once criticized across a banner headline in Oklahoma as “Mr. Unreliable,” is Mr. Dependable in Oakland. He also is the MVP of the 2017 NBA Finals, the award presented by Russell himself as the confetti fell from the rafters.

Durant played starring role as the Warriors closed out the Cavaliers Monday night at Oracle Arena with a 129-120 victory in Game 5 of The Finals.

He surely dreamed of this when he was “8 years old” and visualized it as an NBA star. That much was evident during a recent conversation with NBCSportsBayArea.com, when Durant discussed his game, what he thinks about during a game and his comfort with being on the court.

“I just try to do everything naturally,” he said. “I work on things so much, and if it becomes a habit then it just becomes muscle memory. Repetition is the father of learning, and once you do it so much I just tell myself, ‘I don’t know when I’m going to do this move, but at some point I’m going to have to bring it out.’ “

Durant’s full arsenal was on display during these Finals. Purposeful drives punctuated by dunks. Mid-range jumpers. Rim protection. Back-door cuts for dunks. Clever feeds to teammates. Scoop shots.

Shots from beyond the 3-point arc, one of them particularly clutch.

As fabulous as Stephen Curry was during this four-game sweep of the Cavaliers, it was Durant who opened a great many unprepared eyes while closing even more prejudicial mouths.

More than offsetting Cleveland’s wondrous LeBron James, Durant averaged 35.2 points per game, on 55.6-percent shooting, including 47.4-percent beyond the arc, 8.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Only Allen Iverson (in 2001) has scored more points in a five-game Finals series, and his 76ers lost to the Lakers.

Durant become the third person in NBA history, along with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, to win at least four scoring titles and one NBA title. He also is the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 with five consecutive Finals games of at least 30 points.

For Durant, the past 11 months are part validation and but also natural progression.

“It’s like anything else: If you do something every single day, you have a feel for it,” he said. “You may have an old-school car that only you know how to start because you’ve been starting it every day. Somebody else might not be able to start it. You just develop that touch.

“That’s how the game is. That’s how anything is when you been doing it for a long time and you love it and want to try and master it.”

Watching Durant attack at both ends, it was evident that every move had been choreographed, either through practice repetitions or in his mind. No Warrior is more in love with basketball than Durant. Remember the time back in 2011 when, because he wanted to play, a 22-year-old Durant showed up at Harlem’s famed Rucker Park and dropped 66 points on the locals?

To further express his joy with the Rucker experience, he also tweeted about it.

Nearly six years later -- a time during which he has been the subject of some very public and very stinging critiques -- Durant’s reverence for the game is undiminished.

“Once I watch back and reflect on a game, I could see a little bit of poetry in motion as I’m playing,” he said. “Sometimes, I can see where I might go toward being too smooth and not aggressive enough. There are times when I could be stronger and more forceful.

“I just like to be simple, man. I don’t have to dribble the ball 20 times to get a shot off, or to make it look cool. I’m not into trying to be cool out there. I’m just trying to get the job done. And however it gets done, ugly or pretty, it doesn’t matter as long as it gets done. That’s what my game is about, straight to the point, trying to be efficient, trying not to waste too much energy and movement. And have some fun.”

Winning an NBA championship is beyond fun. It is, according to those who have experienced it, pure rapture, the peak moment of one’s career. For Durant, it’s all of that -- but not everything that’s out there. It’s not, in his mind, all the game has to offer.

Which is why he’ll want to scale the next peak and the one after that. He learned from his first NBA Finals, in 2012, when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. They lost to the Miami in five games.

This was, well, immensely more enjoyable. So much that Durant wants more.

“The game is never perfect,” he said. “But when you want something so much you believe it can be. That’s why you want to be great. You’re striving for perfection because you feel you can be perfect. I don’t want to take that drive away from me, but I also have to scale it back and realize that even as I’m striving for it, it’ll never happen. But I can still believe it chase it and hope for it.

“There will be times when I’ll have to jump over obstacles. I might not win that time, but I’ve got to keep going. This might sound over-dramatic, but that’s the best way I can put it.”

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.

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.