With his Golden State Warriors in the midst of their worst recession since becoming their head coach, Steve Kerr pointed out that his team's problems – his difficulties without his most important player, the internal theater – had nothing to do with him. Special. (Well, maybe that's not quite true.)
"It's the real NBA," Kerr told reporters. "We have not participated in the real NBA in recent years. We have been in this dream. And now we are confronted [with] true adversity and we have to get by ourselves. "
Stephen Curry being sidelined since the second half of a loss against Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 8, the Warriors struggled to generate and convert their beautiful appearance, scoring just over the bottom third of the league in points scored by possession in 11 games. And with Draymond Green missing for 9 of the last 11 games due to a team suspension and a sprained right foot, Golden State conceded pots at the ninth worst rate in the NBA. In Real NBA, it is true that the stagnant offensive and the unfocused defense will result in losses, no matter how much your life has been charmed.
On Monday, it seemed like the Warriors were about to take a refresher course as part of this lesson, thanks to an improved Magic team that passes, cuts and creates open plans. Orlando accumulated an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter in front of a restless crowd at Oracle Arena. But then, another truth is affirmed: Kevin Durant is rather good.
Golden State struggled early in the game – in part because of Durant's own problems – having missed nine of his first 14 shots as the Magic team strengthened their lead – the double-best player in the final in the final. While Klay Thompson and Steph were lining up at Quinn Cook, a total of 6 against 22 on the field and that there was only six minutes remaining in the third minute, Durant found himself facing the defense of Orlando, determined to get things done on their own.
The results have not always been smooth; Durant held up well at two 3-point trials. However, a persistent surge produced a tangible offense – 26 points on 21 shots, six assists against two turnovers – and kept the Warriors within earshot, even as Nikola Vucevic threatened the Dubs inside and Terrence Ross burned them beyond the bow.
And then, Magic striker, Aaron Gordon – a 6-foot-9 and 220-pound super-athlete with a 7-foot wingspan that had forced Durant to work hard for everyone – had to leave the match with the stiffness in the lower back, leaving Orlando to no one. who could even hope to keep Durant. KD felt a smell of blood and set to work, alternately moving in front of Jonathan Isaac to go to the end of the cut against Vucevic (turning around) or putting himself in a position of rhythmic jumps at during the second year in a row; According to NBA.com/Stats match data, Golden State scored 26 points out of the 20 possessions for which Isaac had the KD task.
After scoring 26 points in his first 26 minutes of play on the floor, Durant scored 23 in his 14th final. He pulled the Warriors out of their 18-point hole, bringing them a pair of monster baskets in the final minutes – a sneaky push for a lay-up plus foul while he was left 1:19 to go and a Right dagger of 3 points in Isaac's cup with 21 seconds to go – to complete the Golden State win 116-110. He had help, especially in the form of a fourth quarter to 19 points from Thompson, but it is Durant's insistence: 49 points on 16 shots at the 33 with nine assists in 40 minutes – which allowed a win that night. The warriors, again, seemed shaky.
Professional scoring can look like pure efficiency in action, a flawless transfer of the ball from the hand to the inside of the rim; This is the kind of offensive virtuosity in which Durant usually treats one of the top scorers we'll ever see. Sometimes, however, the notation requires a helmet and the sweat of work. During the series of three consecutive wins at the Warriors, Durant made 35 free-throw attempts and only missed two.
"It's huge," Kerr told reporters after Monday's victory. "It's one of the things with Kevin, I remember training against him all these years, when he gets to the foul line, there's nothing you can do."
All of these mistakes are not very appealing, but they matter a lot to a team that does not currently have much of a track record for efficient one-off production. Thompson could be an offense outside the ball, but he is a finisher, not a designer, and Cook is a more comfortable goalkeeper than shooting. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston move the ball and avoid mistakes, but neither of them erase the defenses of the rebound to create the kind of ravage that opens the door to other scorers. Without Curry around to put the fear of God in the opposite defenses, nor Green to thread each needle, the best bet of the Warriors is to let a player endowed with supernatural qualities do things the hard way.
The road was bumpy, but Durant dominated the ball and began to look like a defenseman who made the difference, with 10 blocks and four interceptions over the past four games, Golden State overcame its difficulties early in the season. Curry may be back on Thursday, in time for what could be a heavyweight battle against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, the leaders of the East, and he returns to 100% after a few weeks in a city garment, the Warriors will soon return to their lucid dream years. What the last three games have reminded us of, however, is that if they find themselves stuck in the Real NBA again, they should hope they will always have Kevin Durant by their side.