Since Tuesday the NBA world has wondered how the Golden State Warriors would respond to the worst collapse in playoff history.
On Thursday, Kevin Durant provided the answer.
Durant opened Thursday’s Game 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers by scoring the Warriors’ first six points. He also picked up a pair of fouls in the game’s opening minutes.
At the first ball stoppage at the 9:08 mark of the first quarter, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr faced a decision. Leave his bubbling cauldron of a superstar in the game, or play it safe so he doesn’t pick up an early third foul.
Kerr stayed aggressive. Durant stayed in the game. It paid off.
Durant’s statement game
Durant, seemingly fueled by the anger that’s carried him through his Warriors tenure, thumped the Clippers to the tune of 38 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds in a 132-105 Golden State win that saw him sit the entire fourth quarter of the blowout.
It was an answer to the questions that surrounded Durant and the Warriors on the heels of Monday’s historic 31-point collapse that saw the Clippers steal Game 2 in Oakland.
In addition to the game, the Warriors lost center DeMarcus Cousins to a quad injury that night. And Durant faced plenty of questions of his own after getting up just eight shots in the loss and showing visible frustration from being guarded by Patrick Beverley.
‘I’m Kevin Durant’
The Clippers guard appeared to be in his head and had Durant talking about him after Wednesday’s practice.
“I’m not going to get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back-and-forth with Patrick Beverley,” Durant said. “I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Y’all know who I am.”
Yep. We all know who you are, Kevin. And those of us who weren’t sure got a potent reminder in Game 3.
Durant aggressive, efficient
Durant was aggressive from the start, sending a message to the Clippers that a 6-1 combo guard was not the guy to guard him.
He hit his first five shots from the field and ended up tying a career-playoff halftime high of 27 points while hitting 10-of-15 field goals.
This was not timid KD. This was two-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time scoring champ KD. That KD led the Warriors to a 73-52 halftime lead.
Durant picks up another technical
It wasn’t all good for Durant in Game 3, though. The emotion that he so often seems to struggle to control cost him when he and JaMychal Green drew double-technical fouls for jawing at each other in the third quarter.
It was Durant’s third technical foul in three playoff games. He and his nemesis Beverley each picked up a pair of double-technicals for going at each other in a Game 1 that saw them get ejected.
For Beverley and Green, it’s no big deal. That’s part of Beverley’s job description. And the Clippers may not win another game in these playoffs.
But for Durant, it’s potentially huge. When a player picks up a seventh technical foul in the playoffs, he’s automatically suspended for one game. With three technicals in three games, it’s not hard to do the math on Durant’s pace.
But that’s a problem for another day. Thursday was about proving a point for Durant and his Warriors teammates.
They lost their drive and their focus in Game 2, casting doubt on whether they can sustain another run through a grueling Western Conference playoff slate or defeat a formidable Eastern Conference foe that’s likely to be led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard or Joel Embiid.
Laying the wood to a Clippers team they’re supposed to beat handily doesn’t quell those concerns. But it puts a temporary stop to the questions.
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