It might have been tough to realize when the starters were on the bench late in the fourth, but the Warriors didn’t play particularly well last night. Despite the 113-91, 22-point victory over the Cavaliers, Golden State actually got off to a slow start and didn’t play the way one would expect.
The reason that didn’t really matter is because Kevin Durant is on the team. His presence both covers mistakes and pushes the team’s ceilings higher. It’s like if you made 2016 Killer Mike a full member of 1996 Outkast. They’d be a totally different group and that would kind of suck, but damn if it wouldn’t be fun to watch.
In short, he’s a one-on-one scorer that Cleveland can’t bully around. The Cavs tried a little bit to trap and beat up Curry, but it’s tougher now. Instead of being able to leave both Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes alone to trap and help, it’s just Zaza Pachulia, and extra attention has to be paid to Durant. You can’t leave the best shooter in the league open to prevent the other best shooter in the league from shooting.
This was especially massive because Klay Thompson made three of his 16 shots last night. Draymond Green made three of his 12. Green made one three pointer, which was one more than Thompson made. But Draymond is an elite rim-roller and passer, and Thompson would have to miss at least another 60 threes in a row before you’d feel comfortable leaving him open. This is Golden State’s Game 1 shot chart:
That’s nothing special. Especially not for the Warriors. But Cleveland was preventing threes, so the paint was open. Durant feasted on both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, facing up the former and backing down the latter. He’s too versatile to be guarded by any Cavalier but LeBron James. And even he got schooled once:
The dude can score.
This side may be even more important than the offensive side. Again, Durant replacing Barnes makes many of the mismatches Cleveland was able to exploit last year nonexistent. Cleveland also tried exposing Curry on this end like last year. This time around, the Dubs are more comfortable letting Curry switch to LeBron or do a quick hedge, knowing that both Green and Durant are lurking nearby.
Both have the anticipation and long arms necessary to slow, if not stifle LeBron’s drives. He converted his shots in the paint around average, but the Cavaliers as a whole shot an abysmal 40% within five feet of the rim. The crowded paint and passing lanes from Golden State’s rotations and Groot-like length forced LeBron himself into 8 turnovers, and Cleveland’s 20 total TOs gifted the Warriors 21 points. It seemed as though Durant had 30 just off fastbreak dunks alone. He limits options, closes windows and forces mistakes like few other players can do in the league. Put him next to Draymond Green and it’s just unfair.
Steph Curry celebrates a lot and has his little shimmies and sky points on the court. You’d never say he’s docile or timid, but his antics always stay on the court. He doesn’t really interact with crowds, especially not individuals within the crowd. Apparently, Durant doesn’t mind it.
Kevin Durant literally shot his shot for Rihanna pic.twitter.com/EX1PUaGXJM
— justin lew block (@JBlock49) June 2, 2017
I can’t see Steph doing that, ever. I mean, watch his reaction when it’s brought up at the postgame press conference:
He can’t even fathom that Durant would so much as think of such a thing. Durant has always been an easymoneysniper, but he’s grown into a full-on killer. It doesn’t matter who’s in his way. He’s ruthless, even to Rihanna who, to be fair, is as ruthless as they come.
It seems as though Durant has embraced the villain role, but he needs to be careful. Villainy is fine, but you can go too far in a hurry. An easy way to do that is to come at her highness Rihanna. To me, that is as evil as you can get. If Rihanna talks trash to you, you accept it, thank her for even acknowledging your presence on this Earth and move forward.
This was Durant’s only wrong move of the night, but it was still good for the Warriors. Go figure.