OAKLAND, Calif. — When a Golden State Warriors came to contractual terms with Kevin Durant some 330 days ago, it was with one transparent purpose in mind: to unleash him opposite a Cleveland Cavaliers in a 2017 NBA Finals.
It didn’t need an modernized grade or difficult analytics to see why, and it’s even some-more transparent following Thursday night’s 113-91 Game 1 slaughter.
The Warriors’ high-octane offense, that powered a bar to an all-time record 73 wins, became low and predicted in a loss moments of Game 7 final Father’s Day. But with Durant aboard, Golden State would be means to widespread a building to a fanciful limits, get clearer looks for not usually himself nonetheless also a team’s other stars, and have him bruise inside for easier baskets in break time rather than rest on a high-variance threes that eluded a Warriors during a many inappropriate time.
Durant accepted that plea final Jul 4, even nonetheless he didn’t have a long, postulated story of playoff success. He knew that a abrasive fusillade of critique was prepared to spread in his instruction regardless of how good a Warriors played.
And he knew that literally anything reduction than a championship this year would be deemed an unqualified, gigantic failure.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Before Thursday’s contest, a Warriors had cruised to a ideal 12-0 start in these playoffs. But detractors were discerning to indicate out that they hadn’t played any fixed competition, interjection to a unreasonable of injuries to hostile players. The prevalent knowledge streamer into Game 1 during Oracle Arena was that Golden State would finally be tested.
Durant done certain a diversion was frequency tighten when it mattered.
With a scintillating 38 points on 26 shots, 8 boards, 8 assists and no turnovers, Durant inside his critics (for now) and showed that a Warriors are not lacking for any motivation.
“This is what each actor wants to be, is a top turn of basketball,” Durant said. “That’s what we dream about as a kid—to play during a top level. we wouldn’t have done my teammates any good if we wasn’t usually enjoying a moment, no matter what. So we usually attempted to stay sealed in on that, [but] during a same time have some fun.”Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
From a outset, Durant gave glimpses of how fun this try would be, arrangement a demoniac home crowd—still approaching experiencing residual mishap from a final Finals diversion played during Oracle—that he wasn’t going to be contained by a Cavs defense with any ease, and that any critique of his preference to join a Dubs was officially, if not always, moot.
With 6 dunks in a initial half that saw Golden State enter a break with a 60-52 lead, Durant took advantage of defensive miscues time and again. The many noted came with 4:20 left in a initial entertain when Durant perceived a cross-court inbounds pass from a sideline that skipped past LeBron James to Durant, who pump-faked a three.
As James slid by, Durant thundered to a basket for a asperse that wasn’t even tighten to his easiest of a night.
“We wish a guys to pull on each possession, make or miss,” pronounced behaving Warriors conduct manager Mike Brown. “We feel like a guys are well-rested, and we feel like we should be means to conflict on each singular play.”
With 23 points and 6 assists in a initial half alone, Durant kept Golden State absolutely forward for prolonged adequate to see a unavoidable third-quarter flurry that has turn a hallmark of this team’s success. With a Warriors’ 33-20 outburst pulling a lead to 21, a fourth entertain was mostly academic.
“If we see a lane, usually try to attack,” Durant said. “My teammates always wish me to conflict and try to open it adult for everybody else and try to measure as well.”
Durant did it all in Game 1—especially deliberation a mins he put in guarding James, who finished with 28 points and 15 play nonetheless 8 turnovers—and nonetheless nothing of his efforts were truly surprising.
From a impulse he signed, Durant was approaching to lift a Warriors adult another nick in a NBA pantheon—if one even existed after a 73-win unchanging season—or a year would be deliberate a failure. That value was on arrangement opposite Cleveland on Thursday.
And this win can usually assistance his certainty as a array positively gets some-more rival from here. The Warriors approaching won’t be reason to usually 4 turnovers again. Or take 20 some-more shots than a Cavs in any given game. Or even reason Cleveland to usually 11 three-pointers when they came in averaging scarcely 15 by 13 playoff games.
On a other hand, a Warriors left a smorgasbord of points out on a building and are assured they can play even better.
“But in a Finals,” as Durant gamely said, “you get a W. We’ll take it.”
And with 3 some-more games like this, a guarantee of Kevin Durant’s attainment in Oakland will be fulfilled.
Erik Malinowski covers a Warriors for B/R. His book, Betaball: How Silicon Valley and Science Built One of a Greatest Basketball Teams in History, will be published in October. Follow him on Twitter: @erikmal.
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