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, Draymond Green disagree on music volume at Warriors practice

Steve Kerr, Draymond Green disagree on music volume at Warriors practice

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Friday night at 5:30, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Like he does after almost every Warriors practice, Steve Kerr spoke to members of the media on Thursday.

The head coach was struggling to hear the questions, however, because the music was blasting from the speakers.

So Kerr asked Warriors public relations czar, Raymond Ridder, to turn the volume down. But Kerr's request was denied because Draymond Green had other plans.

Watch for yourself:

Kerr was visibly frustrated and his facial expression says it all.

[RELATEDNBA scout explains why he doesn't trust Dubs like in past]

When asked, "Who's in charge around here?" Kerr answered: "Not me, obviously."

Draymond went 2-for-4 and 1-for-3 from 3-point territory in Games 1 and 2 respectively, but is a combined 0-for-9 from deep over the last three games.

The 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 2016 NBA Coach of the Year certainly have some history when it comes to disagreements.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

Kevin Durant's incredible offense should spur Warriors to Game 6 win

Kevin Durant's incredible offense should spur Warriors to Game 6 win

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

For the second time this series, the Warriors have disappointed the Oracle crowd. Unlike Game 2, when the Warriors at the very least competed defensively for half of the game, the Warriors came out completely flat and uninspired on defense right out the gates. Since Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, the team has only lost three playoff games at home, and two of those losses are this series.

With every Warriors Outsiders show, we do a simulcast on Facebook Live. Here are some questions and comments that we didn’t get to address from the last show about what ails the Dubs.

Stan Ware: Without a doubt the Clippers are significantly better on the bench than the Warriors. It sounds like you're not giving nearly the amount of credit to the Clippers that they deserve.

You are right, there is not a doubt about that. And I have not heard anyone say otherwise. Lou Williams is the best scoring sixth man in the league, Montrezl Harrell is a beast, and JaMychal Green (who is now starting) has been consistently effective.

The Clippers led the NBA in bench scoring in the regular season. So again, no one is denying the Clippers bench is very legitimate and they deserve a lot of credit for pushing this series to six games. The Clips are scrappy and tough, playing with nonstop energy and fight.

A team deserves credit when they actually take advantage of the Warriors' defensive apathy. And they have. 

Sylvia Young: Kev was huge, what a waste.

Kevin Durant was sensational offensively in this game. He was lethal in every way, attacking the rim with aggression, getting to the free throw line, finding his highly efficient mid-range shots, and even hitting from distance -- which has been inconsistent for KD this season. His five made 3s were the most shots from deep he has made in a game since Jan. 16.

Durant attempted 26 field goals, his highest total since Nov. 29 at Toronto. And I think he probably should have taken more -- he was that good. He has also gone to the free throw line 44 times this series, making 42 of them. Durant has been a monster on offense these last three games, and I expect him to play that way again Friday. 

Vinura Devinuwara: How confident are you with this squad against Rockets? Winning chances?

It is so hard not to look ahead to the next series, but after what we witnessed in Game 5, it is important for the Warriors to take care of the Clippers before even thinking about the Rockets.

However, IF the Warriors were to advance and play Houston next round, I would definitely expect a long, hard-fought series. Houston is playing really well and does an exceptional job of slowing the game and finding a team's weaknesses. But there will be time to fully break down that series if and when the Warriors advance.

PJ Marcelino: Refs are irrelevant cuz they didnt play with urgency from top off

Exactly. Mark Davis had a rough night officiating the game, that goes without saying. But that is definitely not the reason the Warriors lost.

As PJ said, the energy and effort on the defensive end from the get-go were just not there. They did not play with the urgency or focus defensively that you'd expect from a team in a closeout game. At this point, the Warriors have been consistently inconsistent on defense this season, especially at home, so there is no reason simply expect the team to show up fully engaged on a nightly basis.

The Clippers have taken advantage of that, but more talented teams await and are even more capable of exposing even the slightest slip-ups. 

Rich McClure Jr: We should see the Warriors at their best on Friday

I fully expect the Warriors to play similarly to the way they did in Game 3 of this series. They should come out with fire and passion, trying to make up for their apathy and lack of urgency from the game before. The Warriors also will play on the road Friday, where it is much easier to predict effort from the team.

If the Warriors do not close out the series on Friday, I will be stunned.