Warriors' offense rolling in NBA playoffs with Kevin Durant on fire

Warriors' offense rolling in NBA playoffs with Kevin Durant on fire

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

Since the Warriors' historic meltdown in Game 2, there has been a tempered excitement from the Dubs fan base. On one hand, the Warriors are one win away from defeating the Clippers and moving on to the second round. On the other hand, a red-hot Rockets team likely awaits and the Warriors have proven themselves to be consistent underachievers throughout the regular season against top-tier opponents.

The Game 2 collapse was yet another reminder to fans that the Warriors are always susceptible to sudden loss of focus and immediate bouts of apathy. And yet, when looking at the big picture, the Warriors have been playing quite well in the playoffs, particularly on offense.

Here are some key statistics and trends to know:

Through four games in the playoffs, the Warriors lead the NBA in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage and ... turnovers.

The Warriors have been an offensive machine so far these playoffs, shooting the ball with extreme efficiency and putting up more points per game than any other playoff runs in the Steve Kerr era. But the team has been careless with the basketball in the first two games of the playoffs, averaging an absurd 21.5 turnovers per game.

Many of these live-ball turnovers led the Clippers into transition and put a scrambling Warriors defense on its heels. The focus to curtail the recklessness with the ball has shown great results over the last two games, however, as the Warriors have cut down their turnovers to an average of 12.5 per game.

If the Warriors are to play the Rockets in the next round, it will be imperative they maintain their careful play with the ball, as the pace of the series will slow down considerably and every possession will mean that much more. 

The Warriors are 19-1 in playoff games in which Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson combine to score 70 or more points.

In the regular season, Curry averaged 27 points per game, Durant averaged 26, and Klay averaged 22 for a combined total of 75 points per game. When the big three scorers combine to score just below their regular season averages, the Warriors are nearly undefeated. The question mark for the Warriors this postseason is whether or not their defense will show up when the big three struggle to score.

The once reliable smothering Warriors defense has shown cracks in the armor during the regular season and in moments so far this postseason (i.e. the fourth quarter of Game 2). They will be put to the test if they are to advance and play teams that are more likely to capitalize on any weakness. 

Andrew Bogut is averaging more points, rebounds and assists per game than his previous two playoff runs with the Warriors.

There has been plenty written about Andrew Bogut's significant impact on the Warriors so far. But it does not take complex algorithms or analytics to see Bogut's production so far, you can simply look at his generic statistics. As compared to his playoff runs in 2015 and 2016 with the Warriors, Bogut is currently averaging more points per game (5.5), rebounds per game (8.5) and assists per game (3) these playoffs.

Better yet, he is putting up these numbers in only 16 minutes per game. Bogut's presence has been felt outside of the arena, in the locker room, on the bench, and on the court.

It has been only four games so far, but he has become a key productive piece in the playoff rotation. 

Kevin Durant's 71 combined points in Game 3 and 4 are the most he has scored in consecutive games since he combined to score 100 points in late November.

It was just two games ago that all of the national and local media were wondering what was going on with Kevin Durant. He was shooting the ball efficiently in Games 1 and 2, but his turnovers were unusually high, he wasn't getting many shot attempts up, and he had two early exits due to his on-court battles with Pat Beverley.

[RELATED: KD wants message to be his, not media's, as free agency looms]

Since then, Durant has been exceptional.

In Games 3 and 4, he combined to score 71 points on 59 percent shooting and incrementally cut his turnovers down to 5 and then 3. The Warriors had not seen this type of Durant performances in consecutive games since late November when Steph Curry was injured and KD had to take a majority of the shots.

It is unfair to expect this type of dominance from Durant on an every game basis, but it was a nice reminder to the Warriors and the NBA that when Durant is fully locked in, there may not be a more lethal player on the planet. 

Warriors' Draymond Green wants to be remembered as ultimate winner

Warriors' Draymond Green wants to be remembered as ultimate winner

PORTLAND, Ore -- Ever since he entered the league, Warriors forward Draymond Green simultaneously has been the NBA's biggest conundrum and one of its best players. 

An undersized big man, Green doesn't necessarily look the part of an elite rebounder (which he is) or defender (which he is) or a player that can command a max salary slot in free agency next summer. But after an 18-point, 14-rebound, 11 assist closeout performance in Monday's 119-117 win over the Blazers in the Western Conference finals, Green is making a pretty good case for it. 

However, walking out of Moda Center -- into his fifth straight NBA Finals appearance after his injury-riddled Warriors swept Portland -- Green wants to be recognized as something more when it's over. 

"I want to be remembered as a winner," Green told NBC Sports Bay Area. "If I leave this game and you ask somebody, 'What about Draymond?' and they say 'Oh, he was a winner,' my mission is accomplished."

Over the last two weeks, Green's purpose has been to keep the battered Warriors' title hopes afloat. After Kevin Durant's injury wiped away a third of Golden State's postseason offensive output, Green had to turn his multifaceted game up a notch. Since Durant's injury, Green is averaging 14.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists -- after he made a conscious choice.

"I just know I had to be more aggressive," Green said. "I knew I had to push the tempo. You're trying to make up 37 points a game. We're not going to make that up walking it up the floor and just passing the ball to somebody like we do with Kevin and say, 'Hey, go get a bucket' and pushing the tempo and giving everybody a chance to. Alfonzo McKinnie may not be able catch it and rip through and stop on a dime and pull up but he can slash to the hole if we push the pace."

As the Warriors know, Green's performance comes with a caveat. In an effort to get the most out of everyone around him, the former No. 35 pick will pry, curse and grind teammates unapologetically. No better example of the approach than five months ago, when, late in an overtime loss to the LA Clippers, Green cursed out Durant, calling him out on national television.

In the fallout, Green was suspended and a friendship with Durant -- who is expected to test free agency this summer -- was in need of repair. Months later, Green admits the moment was a rite of passage of sorts. 

"Me and Kevin been had a great relationship," Green said. "We had the moment we had in November but I don't have any close friends that I haven't gotten into it with in a major way. I've gotten into with my brother - my blood brother - in a major way. That's just what it is but tough times build character and that's what I've done." 

No one knows the Green experience better than his coach, Steve Kerr. When Kerr was hired to lead the Warriors in 2014, Green, an alpha and by all accounts a basketball genius, would challenge his coach openly, causing strife between the two. 

"Over the years we've had some knockdown, drag-out near fights because he's got a brilliant basketball mind and he doesn't always agree with something I've said," Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

However, as Kerr found out, not backing down in a verbal spar is how you gain respect in Green's eyes. 

"They were important," Kerr said. "He needed to know that I wasn't afraid to coach him and I needed to know that he would respond to me and after every argument and after every fight we'd get into, there was always a mutual respect and a sort of meeting of the minds and we'd figure it out and it works. 

"I don't think we've got into a single screaming match this year. It's got to be a record," Kerr joked. "We've become collaborators more than before. We used to butt heads. It was productive but now we collaborate." 

Kerr is a basketball nomad who has seen it all. He's caught kick-out passes from Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and has been coached by Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson. Through his travels, Kerr has been prepared to coach someone like Green. 

"The best coaches were the ones who coached and weren't afraid to rub people the wrong way as long as it wasn't personal," Kerr said. "Phil and Pop were the best at it and the way you have to do it is with respect. As long as you treat someone with respect you can go at them and challenge them and they may not agree with you but if you treated them with respect. Then you can move forward and that's the foundation I have with Draymond." 

Green's journey to postseason success hasn't been smooth this season. He missed 16 games in the regular season, nursing toe, knee and ankle injuries. He shot just 28 percent from 3-point range, averaging just 7.4 points per game and posting a career-low 106.0 defensive rating. Weeks before the playoffs, he had to lose over 20 pounds at the request of Warriors GM Bob Myers, which has made his current run all the more impressive.

"It's been special," Green said. "Not many people can go through what the type of season that I've been through and still have the type of playoff run that I've had ... struggle builds character. And only the strong is gonna survive so I love those challenges."

[RELATED: Dubs overcome injuries en route to some much-needed rest]

Now, in the postseason, the Warriors swiss-army knife is averaging 13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists, helping anchor Golden State's defense in a virtuoso performance that's even leaving his coach speechless. 

"I don't know," Kerr said. "I've run out of things to say about Draymond. He's just a champion. He can't shoot but he hits big shots. He's not tall enough but he gets every rebound. He's not supposed to be doing this, he's the 35th pick in the draft or whatever. A guy who's just the ultimate winner."

Perhaps that's the way Green likes it. With the NBA Finals nine days away, the Warriors are going to need his mindset more than ever to win a third straight title. 

"Every time I step on the floor, if a shot needs to be made, I'm not afraid to take it," Green said. "When it's all said and done I just want to be remembered as a winner. When I knot my shoe strings up and throw them on the telephone line, if they can say I was a winner, I did my job." 

Steph Curry quiets critics, validates legacy with dominant West finals

Steph Curry quiets critics, validates legacy with dominant West finals

PORTLAND, Ore. – All through the first two rounds, the silliest of debates kept resurfacing in those charmless public dive bars we call sports talk and social media.

Stephen Curry can’t do this. Or can he? He isn’t doing that. But is he? He Is overrated. He is underrated.

Curry handled it as he always does, as he would a heckler in the forest 100 miles away. He keeps playing. And winning.

He came into the Western Conference finals to the sound of skeptics wondering if he could thrive in the postseason, as if he has not already. As if the Warriors, with him as their front man, hadn’t won three championships in four years.

Oh, but without Kevin Durant, could Curry carry the load?

Answer: Curry came out of the conference finals with 146 points, or 36.5 per game as the Warriors swept the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, finishing the job with a 119-117 overtime win in Game 4 Monday night at Moda Center.

Validated. Again. If Curry’s 33-point second-half in Game 6 of the conference semifinals to bury the Rockets weren’t enough, he averaged 36.5 over the four conference finals games.

“The situation called for more aggressiveness,” Curry said. “The way KD was playing up until the time he was hurt, we had a certain balance and a certain look as a team. Every guy took the challenge when he went out to step up and play a little more aggressive: Myself, Draymond – what he did in the series is unbelievable – Klay, on both ends of the floor. And then the collection of bench guys and role guys that really helped us in this series.”

Curry in Game 4 posted a triple-double: 37 points (on 11-of-25 shooting, including 7-of-15 from deep), 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He did enough to cover for the offensive struggles of Klay Thompson (17 points, 7-of-21 shooting, four turnovers).

“Steph was making shots tonight,” Thompson said. “Me, I missed a couple. I missed a few of them.”

What may have been most impressive of Curry is that after scoring 25 points in the first half, he never left the floor once the third quarter started, playing all 29 minutes of the second half and overtime. No one else either team subjected themselves to such torture.

When the Blazers went up 17 (95-78) late in the third quarter, Curry responded with a 30-foot 30-ball. It trimmed the deficit to 14, but it also sent a message that the Warriors were going nowhere. That shot set off a 9-0 run that allowed the Warriors to open the fourth quarter down eight.

“We know we can cover 17 points in a matter of three or four minutes, and so we always try to keep that mindset that we are never out of the game and we just need to make solid plays,” Draymond Green said. “It definitely helps to have No. 30 (Curry), who they can go up 17 and he hits a 3, it just kind of puts them back on their heels and it shifts the momentum for us.”

Curry usually sits for the first five or six minutes of the fourth quarter. Not this time. Less than a minute into the fourth, he drilled a 27-foot 3-ball that pulled the Warriors within five. Moda Center turned quiet, as if they knew what was coming.

The Warriors outscored Portland 24-16 in the fourth quarter to send the game into OT.

Once there the Warriors seemed to get into a zone of comfort. Both teams were reeling, but the Warriors were pulling the Blazers toward the deep end of the postseason ocean. Curry’s biggest play in OT was not a bucket but a dime, a pass whipped to Green that he launched from 25 feet.

[RELATED: Steph, Seth Curry share funny moment]

Splash. A triple. Warriors up four (119-115), 39.6 second remaining.

Game over, with Curry dancing off in triumph.