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Kevin Durant steps up at center in Warriors’ Game 2 win over Cavaliers

Kevin Durant

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


Draymond Green coughed up the ball then fouled LeBron James in frustration. As soon as the whistle blew, Green clapped in dismay – at himself, the referee or both. It was his fourth foul and, early in the third quarter, that sent him to the bench, where he continued to stew.

The Warriors wouldn’t be able to turn to their vaunted death lineup with Green at center.

Andre Iguodala entered the game for Green. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue countered with Channing Frye for Tristan Thompson, a rare opportunity to use Frye without Green exposing him. Steve Kerr adjusted with Shaun Livingston for Zaza Pachulia.

In sum, Golden State swapped a center and power forward for a point guard and wing. That left Kevin Durant at center – to spectacular result.

The Warriors outscored Cleveland 18-11 in six minutes with Durant at center during their Game 2 win. Durant made a 3-pointer late in the first quarter at center and Golden State expanded its lead by four in the third quarter – with LeBron James on the court – with Durant at center.

It’s a small sample, but the Warriors with Durant at center in Game 2:

  • Offensive rating: 126.8
  • Defensive rating: 91.7
  • Net rating: +35.1

Any advantage Golden State gets with LeBron on the court is big. The Warriors should dominate the few minutes he sits.

Durant provides great floor spacing at small forward, let alone power forward, let alone center. And he has become capable of anchoring a defense, at least in spurts.

On a certain level, “7-footer plays center” is a strange headline. But Durant’s thin frame and incredible ball skills make him an odd fit at the position.

Golden State will probably still use Green as its primary unorthodox center. He’s stronger and more capable of handling that physical burden. Durant didn’t play much center in the regular season.

But it must be nice for the Warriors to know they have another appealing option in reserve.