Warriors

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant, Thunder Stopper? With a second consecutive magnificent performance in decisive wins over his former Oklahoma City teammates, Durant may be adding a nickname.

Durant on Wednesday night posted his first 40-point game as a Warrior, carrying them to a 121-100 win over the Thunder at Oracle Arena.

He has scored 79 points in two games against OKC, taking only 40 shots to ring up such an impressive total. He was 13-of-16 Wednesday night and 15-of-24 in scoring 39 points in a 122-96 win on Nov. 3 at Oracle.

Though Durant downplayed his production, his coach and teammates were not surprised he has been so good against the team with which he spent nine seasons.

“It’s still kind of fresh, but we can’t deny the history of him with OKC,” Stephen Curry said.

“Every player in the NBA wants to play well against his old team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “For most guys, you feel that extra juice when you play against a team that you played on.”

Durant not only finished with a season-high point total but also added a team-best 12 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. He practically stamped his signature on the game.

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up,” said Durant, who drilled 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I put the work in and prepared myself for every game. I just happened to knock them down.”

It’s not just that Durant was facing his former team, though. He was, once again, on opposite sides from longtime teammate and erstwhile friend Russell Westbrook. The two have not had much to say to each other since Durant’s decision last July to leave OKC and sign with the Warriors.

Little changed Wednesday night, though the two had a brief exchange in the second half, as Durant headed to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Asked if the two have talked, Westbrook said, “Nah,” despite the brief dialogue.

Durant carefully avoided saying anything remotely inflammatory about Westbrook or any of his former teammates.

“It’s good to see everybody,” he said. “Once the ball is tipped, you’re just playing. You’re just hooping. It’s as simple as that. But it’s definitely good to see everybody.”

Durant’s lone lowlight came when he blew a dunk with 1:45 left in the first half, taking flight about 10 feet from the basket and slamming the ball off the back of the rim and nearly to halfcourt.

“I thought I made it,” Durant said, “and then I heard the crowd.

“I was kind of upset. I tried to dunk it too hard, I think. I might have jumped from a little too far out. As I was close to the rim, I felt myself coming down a little earlier than usual.

“But, yeah, I should have made that one. That would have brought the crowd to its feet. But, hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity.”

The crowd was on its feet plenty, as was the case during Durant’s previous display against OKC. The Thunder won’t be back to Oakland this season.

Durant will have another chance to go after his former team and burnish his credentials as a Thunder Stopper when the teams meet on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.

 

LeBron James says young Lakers are 'hungry for knowledge'

LeBron James says young Lakers are 'hungry for knowledge'

LeBron James is no longer surrounded by veterans that have been around the block a few times.

Now on the Lakers, the four-time NBA MVP is running with a bunch of young pups with a sprinkle of veteran role players. The goal is still to get to the NBA Finals, but this might be LeBron's toughest task yet. He may spend quite a bit of time mentoring all the wide-eyed potential stars on the Lakers roster.

But that's not something LeBron is worried about. In fact, his early observation is that the youngster want to learn.

“I think more importantly than what I need to share with the younger guys," LeBron told China's CCTV5 recently. "I think what a lot of people are missing is how hungry for knowledge that the young guys have."

“[Kyle Kuzma] and [Lonzo Ball] and Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, [Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk] and Moe Wagner, we have young guys that are extremely excited not only about playing the game, but also learning the game. That’s going to help out even more because those guys are just hungry for knowledge, so I’m looking forward to that," LeBron said.

As for getting to a ninth straight NBA Finals, LeBron knows who he has to beat to achieve the goal.

"That's the goal with the new team, young team. We're very new to each other," LeBron said. "That's the goal, but we know the road goes through Golden State. We understand that. The whole NBA understands that. But that is always the goal. Each year, you train and prepare to try to get to another NBA Finals, so that is my preparation."

The Warriors will see LeBron four times now that he's in the Pacific Division, rather than the two times when he was in the East. The two teams will meet on Christmas Day in Oakland, Jan. 21 in Los Angeles, Feb. 2 in Oakland and April 4 in Los Angeles.

Jacob Evans III: Warriors training camp profile

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AP

Jacob Evans III: Warriors training camp profile

The Bulls did it twice, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way. The Lakers accomplished it once, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the 42 seasons since the NBA-ABA merger, those are the only franchises to win three consecutive NBA Finals.

When the Warriors come together for training camp on Sept. 25, their goal is to become the third.

Here is a look at those players with guaranteed roster spots.

EIGHTH IN A SERIES

Player: Jacob Evans III
Position: Guard/wing
Height/weight: 6-6, 200
College: Cincinnati
Age: 21
Salary: $1.64M (first year of a two-year rookie deal worth $3.57M per Spotrac.)
NBA 2K Player Rating: 72

2017-18 in review: As a junior last season, Evans started every game for the second consecutive season and led Cincinnati in scoring and assists, while adding 4.7 rebounds. Bearcats coach Mick Cronin described Evans as an “elite” defender, while opposing coaches marveled over his versatility, composure and basketball IQ. The Warriors were impressed enough to select him in the first round of the draft, 28th overall.

Key stats: 36 games (36 starts), averaging 13.0 points (42.7 percent FG, 32.7 3p, 75.4 percent FT), 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

Season highs: Points (24), rebounds (eight, twice), assists (seven), steals (five), blocks (four).

2018-19 outlook: Despite displaying a strong feel for the game and court awareness, Evans did not dazzle during Summer League. His jump shot was errant often enough to leave some within the organization wondering if a mechanical adjustment might be needed. Evans told NBC Sports Bay Area in August that he’s not concerned and that his confidence remains high. There will be growing pains, and the Warriors will be pleased as long as there is actual growth within the pain. They can afford to be patient because an immediate impact is not needed.