Kevin Durant has been absolutely sensational since he returned to the Golden State Warriors starting lineup after nursing a sprained ankle. Steph Curry’s own ankle injury triggered an uptick in Durant’s usage and with one less mouth to feed, Durant has been stunting on opponents and rather than skip a beat, he’s ratcheted it up a notch.
On Friday night, Peak Durant returned to polish Golden State’s six-game road swing with a smackdown of the Detroit Pistons. Durant was a near-one man show posting 36 points on 12-of-26 shooting, seven assists, five blocks and 10 rebounds. He fell a few assists short of a second-consecutive triple double, but left his imprint all over the Warriors win.
Klay Thompson rattled off 21 points, but slid into a tertiary role as Draymond Green and Durant led the charge. Together, they were a defensive penumbra who took their turn blotting out Andre Drummond in the paint. Despite registering 17 rebounds, Drummond failed to register a double-double because he was held by Green and Durant, to eight points and 2-of-9 shooting.
Green, who rested a sore shoulder on Wednesday, returned to the lineup and provided a boost in the form of 13 assists and six blocks. In collaboration with Durant, the Warriors had Detroit in a defensive vice heading into the fourth quarter despite a modest offensive output.
Thompson, who has made getting blocks a priority this season, tried to get in on the block party action. Instead, he wound up getting bounced by security as Boban Marjanovic delivered a two-hand slam over a contesting Thompson. For the most part, everybody stuck to what they were good at.
The Warriors appeared to have the Pistons in a stranglehold until a 9-3 run midway through the fourth quarter. That Pistons surge lit a fire underneath Durant. The Warriors forward responded by bouncing a dribble between his legs pulling up and launching a 3-pointer. The shot attempt didn’t fall, but he was awarded with three free throws because Anthony Tolliver’s foot slid underneath Durant and impeded his landing.
With 1:37 remaining, Durant swatted a Tolliver 3-point attempt, leaked out as Thompson recovered the deflected shot and lobbed the outlet pass to Durant, who caught it in stride for a breakaway dunk that pushed the Warriors lead to seven points.
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However, Durant’s heroics were nearly negated by his own blunder. As the Pistons pressed in the final 25 seconds, an overeager Durant lost his dribble attempted to escape a trap and the Pistons converted the turnover into an Avery Bradley three-pointer that whittled the lead down to two points. Shaun Livingston would botch both of his free throws on the next possession, but Detroit’s chances for a win would go up in smoke after Reggie Jackson missed a contested lay-up and Thompson drained two free throws.