Warriors

Warriors' Kevin Durant explains why he's having so much fun right now

Warriors' Kevin Durant explains why he's having so much fun right now

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Saturday afternoon at 4, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Kevin Durant had another terrific game Tuesday night.

He racked up 29 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block in Golden State's Game 2 win over Houston in the Western Conference Semifinals. His effort gave the Warriors a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series.

“This is where this s--t is fun, this is when it’s serious and I’m just embracing it,” Durant told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “I’m just having so much fun right now. This time of year is what I’m geared for.

"I’m just hooping at a high level and enjoying the competitiveness of the playoffs. You go through such a long season to get to this point, and now it’s time to produce.”

High level is an understatement.

Through eight playoff games, the reigning two-time Finals MVP is averaging 34.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks while shooting nearly 53 percent overall and just under 41 percent from deep.

He is carrying the Warriors on the offensive end and playing tremendous defense as well.

"I’m locked in right now and it feels good," KD told Yahoo Sports. "I’m just doing what’s asked of me, whether that’s scoring, making plays for others or defending.

"I get so much joy playing this game, and I’m doing it to the best of my ability.”

And speaking of joy:

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The Warriors are hoping the fun continues, a threepeat comes to fruition in June and KD decides to re-sign in July.

Pretty simple formula, right?

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Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year

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Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year

The Warriors will enter the 2019-20 NBA season in unfamiliar territory.

For one, they won't enter the season as title favorites for the first time since lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2015 after significant roster turnover headlined by Kevin Durant's departure in free agency. For another, they will begin the campaign without star guard Klay Thompson in the opening-night lineup for the first time since 2010 as he recovers from a torn ACL. 

But that isn't enough to write off Golden State as an NBA title contender, according to ESPN's Kirk Goldsberry. 

"I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd be all over this bet," Goldsberry wrote in a Friday column, referring to the Warriors opening the season as +1,400 championship favorites according to Caesar's Palace. "Why? Call me crazy, but if Klay Thompson returns to action by March or April, and the Warriors are in the playoffs, they're terrifying."

Placing them in his third tier of championship contenders, Goldsberry noted that the Warriors' experience could give them an edge over other title contenders. He also proposed that sign-and-trade acquisition D'Angelo Russell could "take another leap" under head coach Steve Kerr. Russell, who was an All-Star last season, doesn't have the same defensive upside as Thompson, but gives Golden State another credible scoring threat while one half of the Splash Brothers sits on the sidelines. 

[RELATED: Why Mychal Thompson has MVP expectations for Steph]

That defensive drop-off is what concerns Goldsberry the most, especially with Thompson set to miss so much of the season while Durant and Andre Iguodala no longer are playing in the Bay. The Warriors finished outside of the top 10 in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons despite the presence of all three players on the roster. As NBC Sports Bay Area's Grant Liffmann observed earlier this week, those absences leave the Warriors with a lot of question marks on the defensive end of the court. 

The best-case scenarios for the Warriors next season involve a lot of "ifs." If Russell can effectively fill in for Thompson and if Thompson can return healthy and if the Warriors figure out their defense, then Golden State could be a force in the postseason. The Warriors will have 82 games to figure it all out, but they are still a team few would want to face if and when they do. 

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

The Warriors' roster turnover this summer has been well-documented, but Mychal Thompson things it will bring out the best in Steph Curry next season.

Curry will have to adjust to life without Kevin Durant next season, after the star signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. The two-time MVP also will miss Klay Thompson -- Mychal's son -- for much of the campaign as the Splash Brother recovers from a torn ACL. Because of that, the elder Thompson thinks Curry has the potential for a record-breaking season in 2019-20.

"Now, they're not going to be as good as they were last year -- and by the way, I predict Steph is going to have 500 3s this year without having to share the ball that much back in the backcourt with Klay," Mychal said Friday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "So he's going to come back to his MVP form we saw two years ago."

Curry set the NBA's single-season record with 402 made 3-pointers en route to the first unanimous MVP in league history in 2015-16. He did so leading a historic Warriors team that went 73-9, and Klay finished second on Golden State that season with 276 made 3-pointers. 

Klay made 241 -- and attempted 599 -- triples last year, while Curry made 354 and attempted 810. Assuming Thompson returns after the All-Star break, there could be enough touches for Curry to shatter his own record. However, summer acquisition D'Angelo Russell made just seven fewer 3-pointers than Thompson last season. He probably will take fewer shots as the No. 2 option behind Curry to start the season, but Russell's presence probably lowers Curry's record-setting ceiling. 

[RELATED: Steph comments on learning about KD's decision on plane]

Curry unquestionably will have to carry a bigger load for as long as Klay's out next season. But when his son returns, Mychal thinks the Warriors will find themselves on the same level as other Western Conference contenders. 

"[Draymond Green] is motivated to have a great year because his contract year is coming up," the elder Thompson continued.  "So I think [Curry and Green] -- and with the addition of D'Angelo Russell and the other role players that they've signed -- I think they'll be right in the mix. Somewhere between a five [or] six seed until Klay comes back 100 percent, and then they'll be ready to make their move."