LOS ANGELES – The first Warrior to launch was Draymond Green, missing a 3-pointer 24 seconds after tipoff. That was followed 41 seconds later by Klay Thompson draining a jumper, with an Andrew Bogut missing a jump hook 23 seconds after that.
Stephen Curry got into the action, missing a 3-pointer with 10:08 left in the first quarter, with Bogut following with a dunk and then Green missing from in close a few seconds later.
Where was Kevin Durant?
He was on the court the entire time, but he was the last of the five starters to hoist a shot Sunday in Game 4 of their NBA playoffs first-round series against the Clippers. Would this be one of those instances when KD would look to score or would he opt to wear his distributor cap?
He did both.
“Whether it’s coming off screens, pick-and-rolls, being a facilitator or scoring in the post,” Durant said, “I’ve just got to be ready to dive deep in the bag.”
Durant totaled six assists, roughly his average over the final six weeks of the regular season and one more than he had averaged through the first three games of the series. He also had a game-high 33 points as the Warriors posted a 113-105 win at Staples Center.
He ended up taking 21 shots (making 12), one more than Thompson, who scored 32 points. Durant also grabbed seven rebounds.
Durant’s numbers came because he discerned the needs of the team, considering the circumstances and making logical decisions. Most everything he did seemed to regarded such factors as timing and whichever four teammates with whom he was sharing the floor.
His first two shots came in the fourth minute of the game, jumpers that went in. But he quickly realized the Clippers had made an adjustment. Instead of being defended by pesky 6-foot-1 guard Patrick Beverley, who had the assignment in the first three games, Los Angeles coach turned to JaMychal Green, who at 6-9 is just two inches shorter than Durant.
“Where I initiate and where I operate from the floor has to change,” Durant said of the switch. “I can mix in playing same way I played the previous game a little. But to keep the defense off balance and not be predictable out there, I’ve got to use the full body of my offensive talents.”
When he recognized how hot Thompson was in the first quarter – he made his first seven shots – Durant tried to feed him.
Later in the game, with Curry struggling to find a semblance of offensive rhythm, Durant was trying to send passes his way.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Durant often was the primary ballhandler – even when Curry and Green were on the floor.
“Coach called my number in the fourth quarter to handle the ball, but that doesn’t mean to just score,” Durant said. “If I see an opportunity to get a bucket, I try to take advantage. But Klay had it going. He had a mismatch.
“Especially when the ball is in my hands a lot, I know it’ll come around. So I just tried to get everybody else going and get our energy going from just touching the basketball. I think that provides energy, when everybody touches the ball.”
It’s working. Other than playing 17 minutes of brutal basketball to finish Game 2 with a thud, the Warriors have been nearly as good as expected.
Midway through the third quarter of Game 2, the Warriors led by 30 and KD had taken five shots.
Midway through the third quarter of Game 3, they were up 31 and he had taken 19 shots.
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Durant gained a reputation as a scorer by winning four scoring titles in a five-year span as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But he’s also willing passer, sometimes too willing.
He can do both, and quite well when he is fully engaged, as he was in Games 3 and 4.