Pushed by himself and Warriors teammates, Durant's game elevates

Pushed by himself and Warriors teammates, Durant's game elevates

OAKLAND -- Despite playing at a level that puts him a shade behind the one-man-gang MVP candidates that are James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant insists he’s seeking higher ground.

Only 35 games into his Warriors career, Durant still sees holes in his game.

“I’m trying to round my game out,” he said Tuesday. “I (take) pride in guarding every position and jumping at every guy coming to the basket. Whether I get dunked on or not or finished over the top of or not, it’s just muscle memory now to always get up there and try to protect the rim.

“And also help my team rebound. Last game I was terrible at getting on the glass, and hopefully tomorrow I may be better than I was last game.”

Durant was referring to grabbing only three rebounds in 34 minutes Monday night in a 127-119 win over Denver. Never mind that he averaged an impressive 14.3 rebounds in the three previous games.

Or maybe knowing that he can be better explains Durant’s annoyance with the low rebounding total against the Nuggets.

Though that is an example of Durant’s self-scrutiny, he also hears advice/criticism from teammates, some of which are less accomplished than he.

That Durant is a four-time scoring champion and owner of the 2014 MVP trophy does not prevent teammates from speaking up. What’s more important is that he welcomes it.

“One thing about this group is they’re never satisfied,” he said. “We always feel we want to play perfect. Even though that’s impossible, we’re striving for that. We know there are small things we just can’t do, that we have to be better at. And we try to correct them as quickly as possible.”

Understand, Durant might be the top candidate for MVP if not for the work of Harden in Houston and Westbrook in Oklahoma City. While both are stacking up triple-doubles on a regular basis as catalysts for overachieving teams, Durant has been the best player on the team with the league’s best record.

He leads the Warriors in scoring (25.7 points per game, eighth in the NBA), rebounding (8.7, 19th) and blocks (1.54, 14th). His 53.7-percent shooting from the field ranks first among the top 25 scorers in the league.

“I know our guys love having him on our team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They love what he represents, in terms of the threat, in terms of explosiveness. And he’s a great teammate, a phenomenal teammate, fun to be around, humble and modest. It’s been an incredible addition.”

That humility, more than anything else, may be why Durant has been such a smooth fit. He has an ego, to be sure, but he doesn’t allow it to override the moment or, moreover, the common goal of the team.

Which is why he listens, even to the sometimes strident commentaries of fiery teammate Draymond Green. Getting the occasional earful of Draymond is one of the rites of passage for the Warriors.

“It’s like an 80-20 approach here; it’s 80 percent encouragement and 20 percent you might have to get on guys,” Durant said. “It may come out the wrong way. We’ve got guys on this team that . . . Draymond, his message is always good but he’s just so emotional and passionate it might come off as if he’s getting on guys. But it’s channeled in the right way. Nobody takes it personally. It’s all about getting better as a team and learning.

“There are times with Steph -- I won’t even say what he says to me coming to the bench sometimes -- but that’s what teammates do. And you enjoy someone helping you get better.”

Durant is watching and listening. He sees what he’s doing and what he’s not doing. He reminds himself to be better. And he’s not too sensitive for reminders from those around him.

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.