Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were great all season, and the Golden State Warriors best players hit their apex when the team needed it most.
The Warriors had Game 2 seemingly wrapped up heading into the fourth quarter. For the second-straight contest, Durant Curry enforced their will on the Cleveland Cavaliers, prompting Jeff Van Gundy and Paul Pierce to draw some hasty conclusions. Van Gundy put the Slim Reaper and his not-so-baby-faced-assassin in the conversation for greatest duo ever, and Pierce went out on the biggest limb possible and called Durant the greatest player in the world.
Both were sensational on Sunday, and I don’t think I can stress that enough. Those claims seem bold since it was just one game, but greatness means doing that for longer periods. Curry and Durant have more than enough to keep up this hot streak, but there’s always the chance that they simmer out. If the Cavaliers can force the series to six or seven games, that might happen. If not, summer’s coming early. Of course, banking on their downfall isn’t a sound strategy.
Kevin Durant was particularly noteworthy in the 132-113 win. For the first time in his career, he’s playing incredible defense — Draymond Green-level, almost. I say “almost” because Green still has all the intangibles that Durant doesn’t but, statistically, KD is on another planet. Some of this is a byproduct of the new team. In Oklahoma City, the offense relied on him so heavily that he couldn’t use equal amounts of energy on both ends. With the Warriors, not only do they have the extra weapons, but all of Durant’s shots are much easier. On the backend, such an intense collective means everyone (not just Durant) can play more aggressively. And it’s shown all year. However, Sunday was the pinnacle.
He swatted five shots, picked off three passes and his defensive rating was a staggering 93 points per 100 possessions. Durant had a historical evening and became the fourth player since 1964 to have five blocks and three steals in a Finals game, according to Basketball Reference. What the numbers don’t capture is what makes them even more impressive. Anyone who watched the game on Sunday couldn’t help but notice how Durant was always in the right spot at the right time. There were no lapses. There were no possessions where Green had to pull him off to the side and scream at him. Durant’s energy and length caused problems and created points for Golden State, and he benefitted with 33 on 13-of-22 shooting. Since his early days, KD has been a guy that’s impossible to defend, and Golden State’s offense capitalizes on that better than any other team could. He had the team’s most efficient performance, and he wasn’t even their highest-usage player — that belongs to Curry.
He too had an explosive night: 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Big nights from Steph and LeBron James (29 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds) made them the first opposing players to triple-double in the same playoff game since Walt Frazier and Lew Alcindor on Apr. 13, 1970. (You know a record’s stood for a long time when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hadn’t changed his name yet.) Curry’s stat line — as huge as it is — is a bit misleading. He played well, not great. He shot just 7-of-17 overall and that included 4-of-11 from three. The officials helped him out a bit in the first with 10 free throw attempts, but that changed as the game went on. Lastly, he was very sloppy and committed eight turnovers. And the amazing thing is that none of the negatives matter.
If this were any past Warriors team, Curry wouldn’t have the luxury of playing poorly but putting up huge numbers, as weird as that sounds. Kevin Durant isn’t Harrison Barnes, and we’re looking at a much closer game if that were the case. It isn’t, and there’s no point in crying over spilled milk because Durant is putting on an absolute clinic that’s jaw-dropping to watch. Klay Thompson also bounced back, and his 22 points were huge as well.
To avoid looking like a hater, I’m going to make something very clear — Stephen Curry outplayed Kyrie Irving. And it wasn’t close. Even though Curry shot poorly and had two handfuls of giveaways, he was plus-21 for the game, made a bunch of hustle plays (tip outs and such) and made demoralizing shot after demoralizing shot. That only added to Durant’s lethality. And Durant’s lethality was equal to having Curry be in those positions. Steph was off and still on. That meant he commanded attention, and that’s why the Warriors are so deadly. Additionally, Curry wasn’t detrimental to how the offense ran. Even though he wasn’t making shots, he didn’t force anything, and any attempts he got came in the flow of the game.
Durant has been perfect in two games. Curry hasn’t, and that’s scary to think about because the Cavaliers have been blown out in both games. If Steph can play perfectly, we’re looking at the series not even making it back to Oakland. That outcome is also contingent on the Cavaliers figuring out themselves. James is going to shot-for-shot with Durant and Curry, but both of them playing like this is just too much. It’ll take more from Cleveland, but Golden State can’t afford to take their foot off the gas if they want to complete their redemption tour.
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