We knew this was coming, just a matter of time. It seemed certain to come in the second quarter on Thursday, but stuff got in the way and there really wasn’t much point in pushing the issue anyhow. Not during Game 2, when the Jazz gave up hope in the first quarter.
The Warriors finally needed Kevin Durant tonight.
He’s been watching the Warriors carve up teams without him, maybe a little too often, and he played a “superstar who can be a good teammate” first quarter for the ages in Game 2, when he assisted on four made baskets, made a couple of strong defensive plays, and otherwise made himself scarce despite making a couple shots of his own. The second quarter of Game 2 was the perfect time for Durant to bust out, but he didn’t push the issue.
Game 3 of this soon-to-end series saw Durant’s personality bubble to the surface from the opening tip. Durant didn’t sign with the Warriors to be a role player. He didn’t sign with the Warriors to be the team’s only star, either. He signed with the Warriors because he was done with being the wholesome guy in a wholesome market who did his best and accepted every result, positive or negative, as a blessed character-builder.
Nah, this guy has the same superstar ego as LeBron, Russ, James, Steph and Kawhi (you’ve got to have an ego the size of the Grand Canyon to keep making crazy playoff threes and work so hard to keep your face THAT robotic). And tonight, for the first time in weeks and weeks and weeks, Durant was able to pick on a team just for fun.
And their fans. And the mascot.
Kevin Durant telling Jazz Bear to “get the fuck off the court,” and Jazz Bear immediately obeying, seems like a metaphor for this series pic.twitter.com/mI9NyrHERN
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) May 7, 2017
After Durant dismissed the mascot (who really did run off the court in such a polite way — which makes one wonder if the entire Utah Jazz experience is kind of like the NBA’s version of NHL hockey in Canada).
Then he got into it with some courtside bros. After that discussion was caught on camera, Durant called for the ball on the next possession as soon as the ball was inbounded. There was no way he was giving it up either, and Durant quarterbacked his own play that resulted in an 18-footer over Rudy Gobert.
Durant didn’t turn into a bully this year. He wanted to bully the Warriors a year ago. He was successful for a few games, too, until Klay Thompson went insane and the Thunder’s foundation cratered underneath Durant and Westbrook.
An NBA superstar pretty much has to treat his playoff opponents with disdain or the label of superstar won’t last much longer than one series. Durant has been looking forward to this for a long time. 38 points and 13 rebounds. Only one assist this time. Durant accounted for 15 of the Warriors’ 37 made field goals, on a night when Curry (6-for-20) was off and Klay Thompson (1-for-9) was worse than replacement level.
Durant didn’t just tell Jazz Bear to get the fuck off the court, he finalized the message the Warriors have sent to the Jazz in the first quarter of each game.
You don’t belong here.
And they will, on Monday.
— It feels like Steve Kerr would’ve played Patrick McCaw more than Mike Brown has.
— Zaza Pachulia was great in the first half. He threw up a lot of bad shots when the ball surprisingly ended up in his hands during scramble plays in the regular season, but now when he ends up with the ball it’s more likely that he’ll dribble and take a step or two back, then find an open cutter. And he’s playing the best defense against Gobert of anyone on the team.
— Other than Pachulia and Durant, the one Warrior who played a really good individual game was Andre Iguodala. He can hit threes again!
— I’m not sure if Curry or Draymond Green are fully healthy. (And that’s another way of saying I’m pretty sure they aren’t.) This provides motivation to not mess around in Game 4. This team doesn’t need playoff practice to figure out who they are. They need rest so they can unleash the beast in every first and third quarter from here on out.
— Then again, neither Curry, Green nor Thompson committed a turnover.
— Green wanted to get called for a technical soooooo bad in this game.
— The Warriors don’t even need to play all that well in many other areas as long as they defend and only commit seven turnovers (same total as Game 1). They seem to be playing a safer style of basketball without Kerr around, and that may not be such a bad thing. It still feels like Kerr needs to be there for us to see this team at its true postseason peak, though.