By Jahmal Corner
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – When Kevin Durant rained down shots on the Los Angeles Clippers with his deadly playoff performance on Thursday, he also provided a glimpse of what life will be like for Golden State and their competition without the injured DeMarcus Cousins.
In short, less Cousins will equal more Durant — more Durant post-ups, more Durant pull-ups and more Durant brilliance.The Clippers learned the hard way as Durant hung 38 points on them in a 132-105 rout that gave the Warriors a 2-1 best-of-seven first-round series lead.
“DeMarcus started playing for us late in the season and we definitely wanted to establish him in the post a lot to start games,” Durant told Reuters, following his dominant night. “Without him in the lineup, coach just used me in his spots.”
When Cousins suffered a quad injury on Monday that sidelined him indefinitely, it was viewed as a potential roadblock to the team’s quest for a third straight title.Instead, the absence may have unlocked a version of Durant that has led to the past two championships and back-to-back Finals MVPs.
Golden State fed their lanky sharpshooter early on Thursday, and Durant repaid them by making his first six attempts on an array of moves.For the game, he finished 14-for-23 from the field and added seven assists. “We said before the game they were going to post (Durant) more,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “Instead of having him at the elbows, they’re going to bring him to the right box and he’s going to score from there most likely.
“They did that, and he made shots.”
Durant had extra incentive to be aggressive in Game Three after his manufactured feud with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley had dominated headlines.Durant and Beverley were each ejected for jawing at each other in Golden State’s Game One win. The Warriors All Star attempted just eight shots in Game Two where Beverley guarded him closely and the Clippers overcame a 31-point deficit to prevail.All the superfluous talk surrounding Durant, about Beverley, his pending free agency or his technical foul total, seemed to obscure his most defining gift — scoring.“He’s a top-three player in this league,” Clippers guard Lou Williams said. “He plays at a high level, we expected that. He’s capable of making shots.”
Durant had been making, and taking, less of them recently, though. His shot attempt average has fallen each month since February, and his latest 38-point game was his highest total in more than two months.The two-time NBA scoring champion bristled at the idea that he was ever passive.
“I don’t run the show on any team I’ve ever been a part of, I’m just a player – one of the guys,” Durant said. “So, whatever the coach asks me to do I have to be prepared for it. I don’t pass up shots, I just play within the offense”Golden State’s new playoff offense is set to look a lot like its old one – with Durant at the forefront. His team mates are prepared to feed off of his potency.“He came out super aggressive and in kill mode (Thursday). That was all the difference for us,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said.
“How many people can stop Kevin if Kevin don’t want to be stopped?”The Warriors and their opponents are about to find out.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)