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OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant has been a different person in these playoffs, on and off the court.
His offensive dominance has obviously overwhelmed opponents in the eight games he’s played this postseason, but it’s his demeanor that has shifted to good-humored. The 7-foot small forward acknowledged the adjustments he’s made and says it’s all due to the joy he finds at this point in the season.
“This is where this sh-- is fun, this is when it’s serious and I’m just embracing it,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I’m just having so much fun right now. This time of year is what I’m geared for. I’m just hooping at a high level and enjoying the competitiveness of the playoffs. You go through such a long season to get to this point, and now it’s time to produce.”
Durant played 44 minutes and scored a game-high 29 points with five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
He’s averaging a league-leading 34.3 points this postseason, which is 8.3 points higher than his regular-season average, and his defensive intensity has ramped up.
Against the Rockets, Durant has found himself defending center Clint Capela in order for Warriors coach Steve Kerr to utilize his “Hamptons Five” lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Durant.
Capela was suffocated with swarming defense in Game 1 and was limited to four points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. And Game 2 saw the big man go for 14 points and 10 rebounds, but he has yet to dominate his position because Durant’s length has caused problems and the Warriors have stayed nearby for help.
“Kevin was great,” Kerr said. “I mean, right away picking up Capela in the lane on a roll, forcing a travel, drawing the charge. I thought his defensive energy was fantastic right away. He’s Kevin Durant, so he’s going to score. We know he’s going to score. He does so much more to impact the game, the blocked shots, the rebounds, assists. He’s an amazing player.”
Despite the substantial weight difference with Capela, Durant is holding his own.
“I’m doing what I need to do to help our team get a win,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “If that means playing center, then so be it. I’m locked in right now and it feels good.”
The 10-time All-Star’s reemergence has extended to his disposition. For the past two weeks, he’s made himself accessible while being communicative and cordial with members of the media. There have been no sightings of the irritable, brooding Durant.
He’s in a good place, and his teammates realize it.
“You can tell he’s enjoying this experience,” Iguodala told Yahoo Sports. “He’s playing at a high level and we need him to. He’s giving us great production on both ends of the floor, and it looks like he’s doing it with ease. He’s amazing to watch. When he’s feeling good, we tend to look good.”
As part of Durant’s postseason routine, he’s spending more time in the weight room and receiving daily massages. If he chooses to bypass the team’s masseuse after games, he’ll schedule a session at his home.
The focus, the attention to detail and the preparation are what he says he’s relishing right now. It’s a process that the regular season doesn’t require at its fullest.
“The scheming, the matchups, this is when we’re studying our opponents and thoroughly watching film,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “During the regular season, you don’t really focus on matchups that much because there are so many games, less time to prepare and we’re mainly worried about ourselves and getting better.
“In the playoffs, we have individual assignments, and it’s up to us collectively to execute. And me, I’m just doing what’s asked of me, whether that’s scoring, making plays for others or defending. I get so much joy playing this game, and I’m doing it to the best of my ability.”
Much of the noise surrounding this series has been on how the officiating has been unfavorable to the Rockets. But in actuality, it is Durant who’s been the unfavorable foe.
And as long as Durant’s motivated and in a good mood, he’ll continue wreaking havoc, something his teammates anticipate him doing throughout the playoffs.
“Oh, he’s locked in,” Shaun Livingston told Yahoo Sports. “I like our chances.”
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