Warriors

In NBA Finals performance for the ages, this is exactly why Kevin Durant is a Warrior

In NBA Finals performance for the ages, this is exactly why Kevin Durant is a Warrior

“But we should probably go back to Kevin Durant, shouldn’t we? That was amazing... some of those shots, I don’t think anyone can hit them but him.”
 
-- Steve Kerr, Who Has Stephen Curry 
 
                                 *       *       *
 
The Golden State Warriors have spent the entire 2017-18 season showing the National Basketball Association how degree of difficulty works, and Game 3 of The Finals Wednesday night was the piece de resistance.
 
Kevin Durant, blistered nationally and by his own words for trying to take control of Game 1, took control of Golden State’s 110-102 victory over the Cleveland LeBrons in the belly of the banking beast with an extra-planetary 43-point (on 23-shot) performance that also included 13 rebounds, seven assists and a 33-foot jumper with 49.8 seconds left to stomp flat an otherwise fascinating game and tell the world that nothing – not even savage six-day-old reviews – is insurmountable.
 
Durant’s performance was so magnificently constructed that it obliterated the following otherwise commentable things:
 
•     Stephen Curry’s hideous shooting, redeemed only by a brazen drive and open trey late to make him the second-leading scorer with – wait for it – 11.
 
•     Klay Thompson’s not quite hideous shooting.
 
•     The understated but noticeably brilliant support work of JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell.
 
•     LeBron James’ ongoing struggle to bend the game to his will (as though 33/10/11 should be judged as anything less than his duty), and Rodney Hood’s improbable resuscitation.
 
•     An early Cleveland lead of as much as 13 points, a typical Warrior third quarter (the Warriors are now 16-4 in third quarters this postseason and for the year their third quarters alone would make them the second seed in the East) and a drumhead-tight fourth quarter that magnified the sunbeams emanating from Durant’s skull.
 
Durant eradicated all lingering memories of all those things with his best postseason performance, and now the Warriors are a game and two days away from doing the only thing they haven’t done to the Cavs.
 
A sweep.
 
And not just any old run-of-the-mill sweep, but a cold-blooded, soul-shriveling, awe-inducing sweep in the face of seemingly ridiculous odds that would, if the Warriors close out the matter Friday night, prove that Golden State knew how good it was all those times they didn’t seem to apply their full faculties to the problem at hand.
 
And yes, the Warriors winning a Finals game on the road against LeBron James without even a hint of Curry or Thompson can fairly be considered “ridiculous odds.”
 
They have known all along this year that they have more weapons than anyone else, and they know that they get to show their weapons at their best in the most important moments.
 
And Wednesday’s was Durant’s two-hour, nineteen-minute moment of moments. His occasional bouts of insecurity, his penchant for public introspection, even his still-criticized decision to complete his career by enhancing those of his teammates – they all are reduced to asterisks by this game, more than any similar game he has ever had.
 
Of course, not everyone will see it with a simple matter of crystalline beauty based on the old real estate adage of location, location, location. The ever chatty Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley tweeted:
 
“After this Ring I hope KD goes somewhere else and tries to win one with his own team. He got his validation. He’s one of the best in the World it’s time. Just my opinion. Not suppose to be this easy.”
 
But it’s what Durant has wanted all along – to be in Oakland, with these men, providing otherworldly things when those around him could not, and showing that whatever else the world may conclude, there is deep and abiding satisfaction of being an equal among equals atop an entire sport, capable of saving his fellow equals with deeds like Wednesday’s.
 
In short, even if it isn’t supposed to be this easy, it’s okay that it is occasionally this incandescent. Degree of difficulty concerns just make it emanate more brightly.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
Game 5 Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
Game 6 Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
Game 7 Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm

Warriors know they can't be complacent in Game 5 vs. Clippers

Warriors know they can't be complacent in Game 5 vs. Clippers

LOS ANGELES -- The Golden State Warriors seized control of their NBA playoff first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, taking a three games-to-one lead Sunday afternoon.

But any Warriors observer can admit the team's susceptibility to complacency, evidenced by their blown 31-point lead in Game 2 last week.

The occasional lapses have been met with a scrappy, young, No. 8-seeded Clippers team that has stuck with the champs tooth and nail throughout the series. Despite the loss, the Clippers showed why the Warriors can't afford to display their complacent ways in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

"They're a talented team," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said after Sunday's 113-105 win. "They're an eighth seed of whatever that means, but they're competitive, and they have guys that you got to pay attention to."

In a game the Warriors led by 10 at the end the first quarter and eight at halftime, the Clippers never seemed out of it. Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 25 points, helping offset Klay Thompson's 27 first-half points. In the third quarter, the Clippers opened on an 18-11 run to cut the Warriors' eight-point lead to one with 6:19 to go in the quarter. A little over two minutes later, Los Angeles even took a brief five-point lead before Golden State regained control.

"I loved how we fought," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I loved how we kept coming back. You know, because you have to against them. I didn't think any of our guys were fazed when one of their guys made a shot or made a great play. We went right back at them. I think that's how you have to play them."

Many NBA observers didn't believe the Clippers would be in the playoffs two months ago, let alone secure the No. 8 seed. One day before the trade deadline, the Clippers sent away leading scorer Tobias Harris, center Boban Marjanović and forward Mike Scott in exchange for forward Wilson Chandler, big man Mike Muscala and rookie guard Landry Shamet in a move that was seen as a deal to build the team for the future instead of play for the present.

Instead, the Clippers won 13 of 15 games in March to earn a playoff berth in the final weeks of the season. Still, the Warriors -- who have battled with complacency issues all season -- have had mental lapses in the first-round matchup. On Tuesday, they were outscored 85-58 in the second half of Game 2, as Shamet scored 12 and made the go-ahead bucket late in the fourth quarter, putting a brief scare in the champs.

"They don't stop, man," Durant said. "They're one of those teams, they make you feel them all game, and even when you go home after the game, you're going to be thinking about them because they're tough."

Despite being severely outmanned in the series, the Clippers have given the Warriors their best shot. Guard Patrick Beverley has baited Warriors forward Kevin Durant into an ejection, enticing Curry into foul trouble and earning the champs' respect in the process as both teams head to Oracle Arena for Game 5.

[RELATED: Dip in the ocean woke up Klay for Game 4]

"One thing I will say about our team is we will be ready," Rivers said following Game 4. "We'll show up. I can guarantee you that. This team has never not done that, and it would be nice to get back here, that's for sure."

"We have definitely had to earn the wins we've gotten," Curry added. "And the work is not done until the horn sounds on that fourth win."

Kevin Durant's chameleon-like skills aiding Warriors vs. Clippers

Kevin Durant's chameleon-like skills aiding Warriors vs. Clippers

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.

[RELATED: Warriors can't be complacent in Game 5]

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.