Kevin Durant reminds Warriors of defensive impact in win vs. Nuggets

Kevin Durant reminds Warriors of defensive impact in win vs. Nuggets

OAKLAND – Though DeMarcus Cousins absorbed the majority of the heat for the recent defensive deficiencies of the Warriors, his coaches and teammates were trying to explain the unfairness of it all.

They repeatedly made the point that great defenses are driven by team concepts, and that the entire five-man starting unit was deserving of blame.

All five, then, deserve credit for their work on Friday, when the Warriors took the floor and immediately suffocated the Denver Nuggets in a 122-105 victory. The starting lineup was engaged and ferocious – nobody more than Kevin Durant.

“He was really locked in,” Andre Iguodala said Saturday. “It was a game-changer.”

Durant’s defensive energy found another level, and then yet another. His presence was a huge factor in the Warriors limiting the Nuggets to eight points in the first eight minutes, as Denver shot 2-of-12 from the field and committed six turnovers. With six steals and two blocks during that span, the Warriors quickly set a tone that permeated Oracle Arena.

Draymond Green brought defensive intensity, which is expected. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were hyperactive on defense, as was Cousins.

But Durant, with 6-foot-11 height and a 7-5 wingspan, was such a difference-maker because of his intellect and scrap. He was so connected to his man that several times multiple screens failed. That Denver forwards shot 9-of-30 from the field is largely testimony to the effectiveness of Durant and Green.

Because of his versatility, being able to check guards on the perimeter and sometimes centers in the paint, Durant’s defense is no less crucial than that of Green, who organizes things on that end, or Thompson, whose best attribute is his ability to pressure the ball.

“Kevin has it in him to be one of the top defenders in the league, whether it’s weak-side blocks or on-ball defending,” Iguodala said. “It’s kind of scary when he uses his length and is pressuring the ball-handler and they really don’t have too many options.”

Though Durant delivered typical offensive production, scoring 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting and adding six assists, his defensive commitment was visible. He was as “hot” on defense as Thompson (game-high 39 points, 13-of-22 shooting, 9-of-11 from deep) was on offense.

“Because of Klay’s great play, Kevin’s performance sort of went under the radar,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But when Kevin plays like that, with that type of efficiency offensively and that type of energy defensively – hustle – that’s truly when we’re at our best.”

The Warriors were atrocious on defense in their 33-point loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The only regular starter to escape blame is Thompson, who was grounded with a sore knee. Everyone else was burned multiple times, in various ways.

Durant at times looked uninterested.

He and his teammates were fully interested Friday. The Nuggets shot 22.2 percent from the field in the first quarter, and 34.8 percent in the third, when the Warriors basically closed it out. Denver shot 37.9 percent for the game, and was forced into committing 18 turnovers.

With six blocks and three steals, Cousins provided the kind of numbers that speak emphatically on his behalf. There would be no scapegoating.

“When you look at the numbers, stats and blocks and it’s easy for you to say that DeMarcus had a great game,” Durant said late Friday night. “If somebody else tells you he didn’t play well, that’s what you will write. I don’t think anybody in our locker room was really blaming DeMarcus for anything. We all have our miscommunications out there, miscues, whatever you want to call it.”

[RELATED: Warriors show their greatness when fully focused]

Durant’s stats, two blocks and zero steals, don’t compare to those of Cousins. But KD’s focus was high. He was in shutdown mode.

Asked about the difficulty of being a dominant scorer and still making a major impact, as Durant did, Iguodala didn’t hesitate.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been able to do some of the things that he does,” he said. “But KD is a gamer. When he wants to send a message, I don’t know if there is anybody that can keep him from sending it.”

The message on Friday was to stop blaming Cousins for the team’s defensive shortcomings. Every member must contribute. And when Durant does so at the level he did on Friday, well, the complaints about Cousins or anyone else go quiet.

Steve Kerr uses Twitter to laugh at Warriors' season of adversity

Steve Kerr uses Twitter to laugh at Warriors' season of adversity

Steve Kerr lost 39 regular-season games over his first three seasons as the Warriors' head coach. This season alone they have 43 losses before the NBA All-Star break. 

Even with the departure of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson rehabbing his torn ACL, nobody saw Golden State falling this far in their first season at Chase Center. Two college basketball coaching legends are in the same boat as Kerr this season. 

Roy Williams and Muffet McGraw are not used to losing. So when McGraw tweeted out a picture of herself and Williams on Monday, she hilariously tagged Kerr to be a part of their support group for former champions. 

Kerr had the perfect response. 

McGraw, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2017, is in her 33rd season as the head coach for Notre Dame's women's basketball team. She's a two-time national champion, and the Fighting Irish entered the season with 16 losses in their last five seasons combined. 

They're 10-16 this season entering Tuesday. 

Williams, who was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2007, is a three-time national champion who also is experiencing a season he certainly isn't used to. The young North Carolina Tar Heels also are 10-16 this season. They sit last in the ACC and are just 3-12 in conference play.

[RELATED: Steph was pumped after Giannis' All-Star block on LeBron]

And then there's Kerr. The Warriors have the worst record in the NBA right now at 12-43. Kerr's star, Steph Curry, has only played four games this season after breaking his hand on Oct. 30. Golden State has more G League players than star players on the court as they look to reload next season. 

For such a disappointing season, Kerr seems to always have the right response with the perfect amount of humor.

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

Yes, we're still talking about the on-court feud between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green when the two were Warriors teammates last season. Actually, Durant still is talking about it. 

The in-game spat that occurred at the end of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in November 2018, resulted in Green calling KD a "b--ch." KD appeared to say, "That's why I'm out." 

Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency last offseason, revealed on a recent episode of Showtime's "All the Smoke" podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson that he knew halfway through the 2018-19 season that he was leaving the Warriors

"I knew just about the halfway point through the year," Durant said. "I could feel, you know, the separation between the two. Everybody was just waiting on me to make a decision on free agency -- coaches, to my teammates, to the media -- it's like January and I'm like, 'Yo, I'm just trying to hoop.'"

Durant also went into full detail about what happened between him and Green. Draymond did receive a one-game suspension without pay for his actions, but KD clearly has issues with how Golden state handled the situation.

Here's Durant's in-depth explanation of what transpired (H/T NBC Sports' Dan Feldman). 

That play happened. I was going to grab the rebound. He came and grabbed it. I’m thinking he’s just going to toss it to me, and we’re going to run up court, and I’m going to shoot the shot.

Everybody knew that, and we all figured that would happen. And then when it didn’t, I was kind of shocked. And then I was just, “Whoa, Dray. Let me see that.” Like, “What you doing?” Then he turned it over. And I’m just so confused at that point, because he never, ever did nothing like that before. And everybody on the bench was confused, too. And then when we came back, I just heard him screaming. And I was like, “Hold up.” He’s usually screaming when he comes back to the bench. But what is he saying? Then, he started going off. And I’m just like -- maybe it’s because I was f---ing pissed that he didn’t give me the rock. Because I didn’t say nothing. It was just in my body language. I was just clapping and like, “F--k.”

Then, he started coming off the top with all of that stuff. And I’m just thinking, “Draymond is actually my friend, somebody I can call when I’m going through anything.” Like, “Yo, bro, come through.” Like, “Damn, bro, let’s hang out tonight.” And for him to say that type of s--t to me just threw me for a loop. And I just started isolating myself after that, because I didn’t feel -- they suspended Draymond. But it was just like they had to so it wouldn’t look bad to everybody else. And then nobody talked to me about it or really – we never really came to an agreement. We didn’t voice our opinion -- nobody as a whole -- because it happened in front of the whole team, and nobody really talked about it. It was just swept under the rug. And to me, it was just like, we a family. We’re supposed -- even if he said that, we can move past it. But let’s all talk about it. Let’s just say how we all felt about moment, because that was a huge moment in this whole dynasty. Don’t just sweep it under the rug because we want to win. That’s the reason why we’re not going to win. So, I was just like, “Let’s all talk about this.” It’s not that big of a deal. Just put it out on the table. We can move past it. And when that didn’t happen, I was just like “F--k it. Let me just hoop and worry about myself.”

We all know what Draymond is. It’s fine that you want to do that, that you want to show your emotions and wear them on your sleeve. But when it’s over the line sometimes, let’s just talk about it, so next time you can tone it down just a bit. And I feel like we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. Because we were so focused on just trying to move forward and win. And I get that, too. But if we’re a family ...

We done won two chips together, it’s bigger than -- this some s--t we can sit down and talk about.

Me and him sat down and talked about it, and we kind of, I gave him my piece on it. He told me how he felt on it. But it happened in front of the whole team. So, everybody got to talk about it. We know, s--t, turnovers happen. S--t happens.

That's the most thorough explanation that we have heard of the events during and after the game. What's done is done, though. Durant now plays for Brooklyn, which created a domino effect of the Warriors eventually acquiring Andrew Wiggins from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the NBA trade deadline. 

[RELATED: Durant believes he became Bay Area legend with Warriors]

As KD rehabs from a ruptured Achilles he sustained in the NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors, his Nets are fighting for playoff seeding. On the other side of the country, the Warriors (12-43) have the worst record in the NBA at the All-Star break. 

Next season, however, will look much different for both teams.