Warriors Under Review: Kevin Durant's defense leads way past Pacers

Warriors Under Review: Kevin Durant's defense leads way past Pacers

OAKLAND – The Indiana Pacers staggered into Oracle Arena on Thursday for the fourth and final game of a week-long road trip. The weary travelers were looking for a respite, or a team that would take them lightly.

They got neither. The Warriors toyed with them early, turned vicious in the second quarter and buried them in the third.

The result, a 112-89 Warriors victory, stands as testimony to where these two playoff teams stand as the regular season comes to a close. The Pacers are reeling. The Warriors are rolling.

Here are some of the positives and negatives culled from a game so one-sided no Warrior played more than 29 minutes:


Andre’s bounce

Nobody on the Warriors sandbags quite like Andre Iguodala. He treats the regular season as dress rehearsal for the postseason, with nights good and bad not amounting to much.

He was very good. Bouncy, even. The creaky knees must be feeling good. Iguodala was active at both ends, totaling 11 points (5-of-7 shooting from the field, 1-of-3 from deep), three rebounds, two steals and one assist. He was plus-15 over 19 minutes.

When Igudoala plays well, the Warriors usually win. When he plays exceptionally well, they often rout. This is the Iguodala the Warriors want to see as the postseason looms.


KD’s ferocity

It’s cliché to say Kevin Durant’s defense is “underrated.” He’s usually a solid defender, and occasionally spectacular. With emotions roiling in the wake of news about his “brother,” Cliff Dixon, being murdered in the Atlanta area, spectacular KD showed up.

Barely a minute after tipoff, he stoned a Thaddeus Young dunk attempt. With two more blocks in the quarter, both on Indy center Myles Turner, Durant got serious about protecting the rim.

As much as Draymond Green and Klay Thompson mean to this defense, it’s even more deflating to opponents when Durant – the longest small forward in history – is impactful in the paint.


Quinn struggles

Quinn Cook’s eyes were moist and reddened before tipoff, obviously a reaction to the news regarding Dixon. They, too, were friends. Cook and Durant shared an embrace before the Warriors took the floor.

Durant played very well. Cook did not. After showing recent signs of finding his shot – he was 5-of-11 from deep on the four-game road trip – Cook never found his range. He was 1-of-6 from the field, 0-of-4 from deep.

No doubt Cook was affected by Dixon’s death. The Warriors hope that’s all it was, for Cook’s value lies in scoring. If he’s not getting buckets, he’ll be glued to the bench.


Boogie the bully

DeMarcus Cousins is the first to acknowledge he is motivated by slights, by being told what he cannot do. Coming off a year-long layoff for Achilles’ tendon surgery, there was criticism related to his mobility, particularly as it relates to defense. He seems to have heard every word.

Two months into his return, he’s playing as if the sharp words continue to ring in his ears. He’s using his bulk to eat space on defense and also have his way on offense. He finished with team highs in points (19, on 8-of-12 shooting) and 11 rebounds, adding four assists and two blocks.

The critics started a fire within Cousins, as if auditioning for a new contract weren’t enough.

[RELATED: How will Warriors use thier center rotation?]


Keeping it moving

The Warriors often talk about ball movement, but they also believe it’s the best route to an open look. They were good in a sluggish first quarter but ridiculously good in the second – when they outscored the Pacers 34-24 – with each of their 13 buckets assisted.

The Warriors had no fewer than seven five-pass possessions over the first three quarters, with five leading to easy buckets. They had 19 assists on 21 first-half buckets, 28 on 35 through three quarters and finished with 32 on 44 (garbage time was a mess).

What’s not to love about all five starters having at least four assists?

Ja Morant, top NBA draft prospect, chooses Kevin Durant over LeBron James

Ja Morant, top NBA draft prospect, chooses Kevin Durant over LeBron James

Ja Morant soon will know his first NBA team, but he can't exactly pick his teammates. 

The Murray State guard is considered one of the best prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft. He'll likely be a top three pick come June 20, with many pegging him to the Grizzlies at No. 2 overall.

If he could choose his ultimate starting five, though, he'd only have one Warrior. 

"Whew, it's a tough decision for the 3. I don't know if I'd pick KD or Bron," Morant said on the latest episode of Take it There with Taylor Rooks. "Probably KD. Because Bron, but I feel like I can be that facilitator for this team." 

[RELATED: KD continues feud with Broussard]

Morant rounded out his lineup with himself as the point guard, Paul George at shooting guard, Giannis Antetokounmpo at power forward, and Anthony Davis at center.

Morant averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore this season for Murray State.

Draymond Green doesn't care if Warriors face Bucks or Raptors in NBA Finals

Draymond Green doesn't care if Warriors face Bucks or Raptors in NBA Finals

Programming note: Watch the NBA Finals pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Thursday, May 30 at 4:00 p.m., streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Who will the Golden State Warriors face in the NBA Finals?

The Milwaukee Bucks won the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, but the Toronto Raptors evened things up by taking both contests north of the border.

Ultimately, the Dubs' opponent is completely out of their control so there's no need to waste energy hoping for a specific matchup.

"I don’t really care who we play," Draymond Green told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group after the Warriors' Game 4 win in Portland on Monday night. "Whichever team we play, it’s going to be a good battle.”

During the regular season, Draymond -- who was named to the All-Defensive Second Team on Wednesday -- did not play in the Warriors' 134-111 loss to the Bucks at Oracle Arena on Nov. 8.

He also missed Golden State's 105-95 victory in Milwaukee on Dec. 7.

That means the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year hasn't squared off against Giannis Antetokounmpo since March 29, 2018.

“If that’s who I play, obviously you take that challenge on and you appreciate the challenge playing against a player who is as good as Giannis," Draymond told BANG.

Draymond was not in uniform when the Dubs lost in Toronto on Nov. 29 (when Kevin Durant scored 51 points), and it was just his second game back after missing the prior 11 when Golden State got crushed at Oracle by the Kawhi Leonard-less Raptors on Dec. 12.

What happened during the regular season truly doesn't matter and the Warriors will have plenty of time to prepare for either opponent.

For now, Draymond is just enjoying the extended time off. But you better believe he's looking forward to showcasing his talents on basketball's biggest stage.

[RELATEDLooney reacts to Kerr calling him 'foundational piece']

“Draymond is a competitive guy. He loves those type of matchups. He’s the best defender in the league,” Kevon Looney told BANG. “I feel way more comfortable with my defense when I got Draymond behind me.

"He takes our defense to another level."

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram