Kevin Durant's frustrations show Steph Curry's unique offensive skill set

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KD's frustrations vs. Celtics highlight Steph's unique skill set originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Through two games of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, the Boston Celtics have Kevin Durant in jail.

Boston's defense has swarmed the best scoring forward of all time, constantly throwing two and three guys at him and using their length to disrupt his usually reliable handle. In two games, the Brooklyn Nets star is averaging 25.0 points per game but shooting just 31.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. He has turned the ball over 12 times in two games.

After Wednesday night's Game 2 loss in Boston, Durant explained what the Celtics are doing to bog him down, noting it's incumbent on him to fix the lapses that led to him going 4 of 17 from the field in Game 2 and 0 of 10 in the second half.

"I mean, they're playing two or three guys on me sometimes when I'm off the ball; they're mucking up actions when I run off stuff," Durant said. "I see [Al] Horford leaving his man to come over to hit me sometimes. They're just playing -- two or three guys hit me wherever I go. You know? And that's just the nature of the beast in the playoffs.

"I felt like I got a couple good shots there in the fourth that just didn't go down," Durant continued, "but I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball or when I'm setting up, so I got to be more patient but also play fast sometimes, too."

Durant has seen double and triple teams for his entire life. But we've never seen a defense strangle him the way Boston's has. Durant understands that in the playoffs, teams construct their defense to take away the opposition's best weapon. Or, at the very least, make life incredibly difficult for them.

The Celtics have 10 eyes looking at Durant at all times, with each defender in good position to help harass Durant but close enough to get back to their man. It has been a coaching clinic by Boston coach Ime Udoka.

Naturally, Durant's frustrations with multiple bodies being sent at him had Warriors fans thinking of the numerous times Steph Curry has faced and solved junk defenses. (See: 2019 NBA Finals.)

But as I watched Durant try to solve Boston's defense by himself in the fourth quarter, with Kyrie Irving mainly standing around on the perimeter watching, I thought of a quote from Tyronn Lue about his scheme defending the dynastic Warriors.

"He's so dangerous, probably the most dangerous player in the league the way he can get hot," Lue said in February about Curry. "We've got to make him work on both ends, try to get him in foul trouble. ... You've got to remember, in 2017 and 2018, we blitzed him with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson on the floor. That's how dangerous I think he is. That's what we had to do tonight."

As the Nets' stagnant offense was swallowed by the Celtics, I couldn't help but think how Curry's gravity and his unselfish nature made life easier for one of the 10 best players of all time in Durant.

It's not just that Curry could solve "janky" defenses. It's that even with Durant and Thompson on the floor with him, teams still sold out to stop him, choosing to live with the results.

On Wednesday, as four and six arms contested every Durant jumper and poked at every dribble, the difference between situations for Durant was stark.

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There was no cutting or moving to help free up space for Durant. The co-star he chose to architect the Nets with, while talented in his own right, just waited for his own isolation opportunity.

It's not that Durant can't beat double teams or can't solve the Celtics. He has the talent to do that, and I won't be surprised if a 40-piece courtesy of the Slim Reaper awaits the C's in Game 3.

But the amount of energy Durant must exert just to get to his spot is immense, and the Nets' style of play does nothing to ease his burden in a way Curry's gravitational force and the Warriors' free-flowing offense did.

The Celtics have both Durant and Irving in straight jackets as the series heads back to Brooklyn. It will take every ounce of energy and a heroic effort for Durant to drag the Nets to the second round.

I'm eager to watch a legendary talent try to take down a cohesive defensive juggernaut. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. This is the path Durant wanted to walk, but it's a reminder of how Curry's greatness extends far beyond the ability to knock down a jumper from 30 feet.

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