LOS ANGELES – Kevin Durant strolled into the interview room late Thursday night and made a reasonably good effort to downplay his scintillating performance, which wiped away three days of misery and reflection for the Warriors.
“I’ve been here for 12 years,” he said, referring to his NBA career. “I’m 30. I don’ t need to show nobody nothing at this point.”
He didn’t need to, but he did it anyway.
“Coach Kerr came up with some plays for me at the start of the game,” he said.
OK. Probably so.
“We were just more patient tonight, to sum it up,” he said.
Well, yes, they were.
But the Warriors also were more purposeful and insanely intense early, with Durant setting the tone, treating Staples Center as his personal playpen, with him having all the fun and needing only one fantastic half to bury the gritty Clippers and their “gimmicky” defenses into a deep, dark dungeon from which even they will have a devil of a time escaping.
For this tip-to-buzzer 132-105 victory that gives the Warriors a 2-1 series lead, Durant was as much the architect as coach Steve Kerr or any member of his staff. Durant punished the Clippers with his scoring, zapping the pest that is Patrick Beverley, and then finished them with the other elements of his game.
“He came out super aggressive, in kill mode,” Draymond Green said. “That was all the difference for us. We took control of the game right there in the first quarter and never lost control of it.”
Scoring 38 points – 27 in the first half on 10-of-15 shooting – and adding seven assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block, Durant didn’t do it all, but he did more than enough to bring his teammates along for the wonderful ride.
“He had a different mindset tonight than he had the other night,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He set a tone right away. Our guys loved it. His teammates were excited about the way he started the game. That was infectious, carried over to our defense too.”
There have been times when Durant seemed less than fully engaged, maybe lounging in a corner on offense or failing to hustle back on defense. Not in Game 3. He played at MVP level, with high energy and visible passion and flame beneath his feet.
He also was the center of the most fervent overall team spirit seen from the Warriors in recent weeks, even as they were closing the season winning eight of their last games. Durant didn’t just produce, he also was a galvanizing emotional presence.
This is the full Durant, the KD the Clippers didn’t want to see and the dude he implied he would be when he resorted to third-person reference to remind one and all of his elite status.
“He made those statements with confidence, you know?” Clippers guard Lou Williams said. “He plays at a high level. We expected that. The only thing I’m disappointed about is he announced himself before he even got here. We didn’t come prepared.”
There likely was no preparation that might have helped Los Angeles. Beverley, such an irritant in the first two games, was rendered an irrelevant speck of futility. JaMychal Green, bigger and stronger, tried defending Durant and got burned for his effort; the only notable remnant of their matchup was the double technical fouls assessed after they got too gabby with each other for referee Jason Phillips.
Durant can shrug it off if he likes. It is, after all, no better than dozens of games he has played during his career.
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But this came under broad audience surveillance after Durant played below his standard in Games 1 and 2, leaving so many fans and maybe some teammates and coaches on the edge of their seats wondering how he would approach Game 3.
Durant approached it with a vengeance, by showing the Clippers they can’t stop him and reminding everyone else why the Warriors brought him to the Bay Area. And, yes, why several teams would love to bring truckloads of cash his way when he becomes a free agent in July.