Through the first two games of the NBA Finals, the one consistent theme that has already emerged in the series is that Kevin Durant makes an already ridiculous Golden State Warriors team quite literally invincible.
Picking up from his sensational 38 point, nine rebound and eight assist performance in Game 1, Durant led the Warriors to a 132-113 Game 2 victory on Sunday with 33 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and three steals. Durant shot 13-of-22 and nailed four three-pointers, while also registering just three turnovers. Thanks in large part to Durant’s play, the Warriors now lead the Finals 2-0 and have firm control of the series as it shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Durant scoring 33 points is nothing new as the All-Star gets buckets on the regular. However, the effort he’s brought on the defensive end in rim protection, being strong on the perimeter, and his length in transition really made a difference in Game 2 and allowed Golden State to get yet another double-digit victory in the series.
Take this play from Durant in the fourth quarter, which was when the Warriors really pulled away from the Cavs and sealed up the victory. Durant played excellent post defense on Kevin Love and blocked the Cavs big man’s shot attempt. He quickly recovered the ball, crossed up LeBron James on the other end of the court and scored on a circus shot while drawing a foul from Love in the process.
That play was a direct result of Durant’s defense and shows how lethal the Warriors are with him. Durant can be a one-man wrecking crew because of his two-way play. This was something the Warriors lacked last year with Harrison Barnes, who is a decent defender but his ability to score greatly pales in comparison to Durant. So much so that in just two games, Durant has already surpassed Barnes’ point total from last year’s Finals, which remember ended in an epic Game 7.
But again, while Durant’s offensive prowess has elevated Golden State’s elite offense to yet another level in the Finals, his defense was key to the Warriors’ victory. This is especially true when it came to limiting James.
The Cavs superstar played wonderfully and finished with a triple-double of 29 points, 11 rebound and 14 assists, but when being guarded by Durant, James failed to score. The opposite happened on the other end of the court as Durant was still able to go to work on James, despite the Cavs All-Star being an excellent defender.
Rightfully so, after the game Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised Durant’s defense.
“His defense was amazing, especially with Draymond out,” Kerr said of Durant while referencing Draymond Green’s foul trouble in the game. “It’s a small game and you got shooters everywhere and you have to be able to protect the rim with LeBron coming down the hill, Love posting up and Draymond is on the bench. So that’s a pretty scary proposition for us and I thought Kevin’s defense was unreal. It was probably the key to the whole game. KD was…he was amazing.”
Amazing is the perfect superlative to describe Durant’s performance, as it is performance that only Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have ever had in NBA Finals history. All three of those players are NBA champions and if Durant is able to keep playing like this, he surely will be as well in the very near future.