OAKLAND – With teammates and coaches urging him to be more assertive with his shot, Kevin Durant says he knows what the Warriors need from him and how best to deliver it, regardless of the “gimmicky” defense of the Clippers.
The gimmick Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers threw at Durant in Games 1 and 2 is mostly in the form of relentlessly pesky guard Patrick Beverley.
“I’m not going get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley,” Durant said after practice Wednesday.
“I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am.”
Durant is an MVP and a four-time scoring champion. He averaged 26 points per game in the regular season and averages 27 for his 12 NBA seasons. He scored 21 points on 16 shots in Game 1 and then 23 on eight shots in Game 2.
The Warriors, aware that Durant’s attempt rate diminished greatly over the final weeks of the season – he averaged 10.8 shots over the final nine games, 17.6 over the previous nine – would like to see those numbers go up in the playoffs, beginning with Game 3 on Thursday in LA.
Because he’s such an accomplished and efficient scorer, more movement and aggression should mean more shots for Durant. That subject has been addressed with Durant, according to coach Steve Kerr.
“The guy is the most skilled basketball player on planet earth,” Kerr said. “There’s nobody who can do what he can do. It’s the playoffs. Defenses are more locked in. They play everybody tougher. I don’t know how many shots he got the other night. Seven? Eight? Absolutely, he needs to be more aggressive. It’s the playoffs. He can get any shot he wants, any time.
“So I want to see him get 20 shots. Thirty.”
Though he has a nine-inch height advantage over Beverley, Durant points out that is somewhat deceptive because the Clippers usually send at least one other defender his way.
“When I get the ball and I’m in position to score, I will look to score,” Durant said. “But if I don’t have an option to score, I will look to pass. We run a lot of plays here. We move the ball every time downcourt, so every time I touch it, I’m not going to break a play just to be aggressive just because I need to get up 30 shots. Because it would look like something is wrong with me.
“I’m going to play basketball. We won Game 1 that way. We were up 30 in Game 2. I think we should just stick to the game plan we had the first two-and-a-half quarters and do that for 48 minutes.”
Durant has a point. As the Warriors built a 31-point lead midway through the third quarter, he was relatively passive with his shot.
“I’m not going to go out there and just go shoot 20 or 30 shots,” he said. “I don’t play like that. When we were up 30 points, I had five shots. Everybody’s shots were evenly distributed around that time, so me taking two more shots after that is not the reason why we lost.”
This, too, is true. The more visible problem for the Warriors – and for Durant – was the number of turnovers. Durant committed four in the third quarter and two more in the fourth as the Clippers chipped away at the deficit until they took the lead and the game.
Yet there never is a situation where the most efficient scorer shouldn’t take advantage of his matchup. Beverley, as disruptive as he is, can’t contain KD. And if Beverley gets help, KD passes well enough to burn that strategy.
Durant’s decision to be more selective than assertive with his shot can work. But the Warriors want to see him go to work. They would accept more production now, and they’re going to need it as they go deeper into the postseason.