So far this season, Durant thriving for Warriors when it matters most

So far this season, Durant thriving for Warriors when it matters most

Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage starts tonight at 5pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Through the venom sprayed upon Kevin Durant by fans in Oklahoma City, as well as the goading of his former Thunder teammates, we learned Durant is in a better place than he has ever been, and with more self-belief than he has ever known.

Once justifiably considered vulnerable in psychological warfare, he is, at 28, exceedingly difficult to knock off his game.

In the five most emotionally challenging games for Durant as a Warrior -- the Thunder three times, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, twice -- he was as ruthless as he was efficient: 34.0 points, 60-percent from the field, including 51.3 percent from deep; 93.7 percent from the line; 9.8 rebounds.

That Durant finds another level in games that mean the most implies he has found a degree of certitude that bodes well for the Warriors in the postseason.

The way Durant coped with the weekend hostilities at Chesapeake Energy Arena was, for the most part, letter perfect. His greatest failures Saturday night were in his actions on the court, specifically getting caught up in machismo contests with former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson. Westbrook and Roberson acted as instigators, and Durant let himself get dragged into the skits.

As for the nightlong shout show put on by mostly adult fans, some of which surely feel jilted by his departure last summer, while others seemed to be looking for a room in which to scream insults, Durant took a complete detour.

Warriors forward Draymond Green got caught up in it. As he walked toward the scorer’s table to reenter the game, one local superfan sitting courtside, near the Warriors bench, shouted, “Don’t kick anybody.”

Green glanced back over his shoulder and said, “I’m gonna kick you.”

Shortly thereafter, as officials gathered to review whether Roberson was overly aggressive in hacking Durant, that same fan couldn’t help diving into the proceedings. As players from both teams awaited the verdict -- it was ruled a common foul -- the fan was standing and pointing and shouting and, according to Green, firing off a stream of insults with a perceived racial edge.

It was intense enough to compel several cops to intervene.

Intense enough that Andre Iguodala, clearly agitated, demanded for an ejection of the fan and was highly indignant when the cops did not.

Durant spent those moments of madness sitting on the scorer’s table observing, with no more reaction than a grin and lift of a brow. He was locked in. May as well have closed his eyes and indulged in an inspirational chant.

This is not, according to Durant and those who have spent time around him, who Durant has always been. He came to the Warriors with a reputation for being relatively sensitive, even thin-skinned, as if he sought approval. The implication was that he was a slave to the burnishing of his image and that anything considered contradictory was to be refuted, if not expunged.

That Kevin Durant seemed to be truly worried about what others thought of him, which would have made him compromised prey for the howling predators in the arena. The old KD might have wilted, if not visibly then perhaps internally.

The Kevin Durant we’ve seen this season has dropped that vibe. Burned it. He vowed during the preseason to stop homogenizing and just “be real.”

He is content with himself, he says, and all signs suggest there is truth to this.

Understand, Durant still has connections in the Oklahoma City area. He remains involved in the community. He continues to give. He credits OKC at most every turn. The old KD easily could have moped and questioned his commitment and been offended by their fickleness.

How could they turn on me? Don’t they know what I’ve done around here? Is there a way I could get a refund on that $1 million donation to the American Red Cross for tornado relief?

Instead, Durant sailed through the evening, posting team-highs in points (34) and rebounds (nine) and never once engaging the furious masses.

He eventually applied the proverbial dagger, staring down Westbrook and draining a 3-pointer from 28 feet, cooling an OKC rally and giving the Warriors a 123-104 lead with 3:40 remaining.

So when Durant said he harbored no ill will toward the fans, that they were amazing and brought nothing unexpected, it was believable. When claimed to be unbothered by his ex-teammates, that, too was believable.

Maybe everything that was thrown at him bounced off, if he felt anything at all.

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.