After their win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, the Warriors traveled to Detroit to face the Pistons in the final game of their 6-game road trip. Though the Pistons came into this game having lost four straight, they had also already defeated the Warriors once this season, back on October 29th at Oracle. The Warriors were looking to get a little payback on the Pistons while also finishing their season-long road trip at a perfect 6-and-0. Though some miscues caused things to tighten up in the closing minutes, ultimately the Warriors defeated the Pistons 102-98.
Durant does a little bit of everything
Once again, it was Kevin Durant who propelled the Warriors to the victory with Stephen Curry out of the lineup. Durant scored 36 points, a season-high and his second-consecutive 30+ point performance, one point better than the 35 points he scored on Wednesday night.
Two of those points came here when Durant was guarded by Anthony Tolliver
While he ended with the triple-double in the team’s previous game against the Hornets, Durant’s performance against the Pistons was more efficient. He shot better from the field and 3-point range and took four more free throws. Durant’s points also came at critical junctures in the game with his highest-scoring quarter coming in the third. Durant scored 13 of his points in that quarter, allowing the Warriors to take a 10-point lead after trailing by four at halftime.
While the bulk of Durant’s points came in the third quarter, his fourth quarter buckets were some of the game’s most important as he provided an answer when the Pistons appeared to be coming back.
On this play, one that effectively put the game out of reach, Durant not only scores but does so after blocking Tolliver’s shot, one of his five blocks against the Pistons. Again, Durant’s performance as a rim protector and a rebounder (he ended the night with 10 rebounds, nine of which came on the defensive glass) could not be missed. Against one of the better rebounding teams in the league and a team that does not allow its opponents to get many rebounds, Durant and the Warriors were able to keep up with Detroit even while missing their starting center in Zaza Pachulia.
But the part of Durant’s game that I am perhaps most interested in and enjoy seeing on display in these games where Curry has been out is Durant’s passing. Though he did not get to 10 assists, only totaling seven against the Pistons, his passing was again on display.
KD pickin' up right where he left off with a dime to Klay! pic.twitter.com/3Rd0IrPy3s— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 9, 2017
Even as early as the first quarter, people were noticing Durant’s run of late with setting up his teammates, not just scoring himself.
14 assists the past five quarters for Kevin Durant.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 9, 2017
Another one of Durant’s assists came in the third quarter, finding Andre Iguodala for the open 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down.
Shot clock? What shot clock? pic.twitter.com/SW2Bium5YE— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 9, 2017
Iguodala’s 3-pointer, set up by Durant finding him with seconds left on the shot clock, pushed the Warriors lead to a two-possession one and was part of a 10-2 Warriors run to close the third quarter.
An interesting statistical tidbit regarding Durant and his assists— nearly a quarter of the games in which Durant has totaled seven or more assists have come since he’s played with the Warriors, a team for whom he’s played slightly over a tenth of his career games.
Playing with the Warriors, with these players and in this system, has unlocked or refined his ball distribution skills. It will be interesting to see if Durant’s assist numbers continue trending upward during his time with the Warriors.
What Durant’s performances over these past couple of games has shown us is how much he’s developed since coming to Golden State, even independent of Curry being in the lineup. While one would occasionally see flashes of this defense or ball distribution when he played in Oklahoma City, now Durant has become a player that can do all those things consistently.
While Durant has always been a complete player, coming to the Warriors and playing within Steve Kerr’s system has allowed Durant to play in a complete way. It’s fun to see Durant’s play getting the focus right now, but it will be even better when Curry returns and adds another dimension to this attack that makes the Warriors so hard to beat.
Against his hometown team, Green’s passing and defense shine
After missing the previous game against the Hornets, Draymond Green returned to the starting lineup to play in front of his hometown crowd (having grown up in nearby Saginaw, Michigan and attending Michigan State University in East Lansing).
Though he struggled as a scorer against the Pistons (totaling only two points), Green filled all the other areas of the stat sheet in this game. The Warriors forward tied a career high with 6 blocks, with this one coming late in the game and leading to a crucial Durant bucket.
In addition to his defense and shot-blocking, Green also finished Friday’s game with 13 assists, also tying a season-high. One would have thought that, if the Warriors are going to win games while Curry is out of the lineup, they would need Green to score at a higher rate than he has been this season. However, the Warriors were able to win the past two games with Green either out of the lineup or not doing much scoring.
Warriors defense continues to improve
Much like the game against the Hornets, the Warriors played some great defensive basketball. Again, the first quarter was a harbinger of things to come.
Warriors have a 30-24 first-quarter lead, holding Detroit to a 32.1% clip and posting six blocks— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 9, 2017
Though they shot better as the game went on, ending with a field goal percentage of 41.5%, the Pistons were still well below their average for the season (45.8% going into tonight’s game). After some concerns about the Warriors defense early in the season, it looks as though they are beginning to round into form.
The Warriors were able to hold the Pistons’ leading scorer, Tobias Harris, to just 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting while Andre Drummond scored 8 points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The Pistons’ guards were able to score, owing to Curry’s absence and thus leaving Klay Thompson (who scored 21 points himself) to do much of the backcourt defending. Reggie Jackson scored 16 points, but 14 of those came in the first half as he cooled off in the third and fourth quarter.
Avery Bradley, meanwhile, picked up his scoring in the third quarter and ended the game with 25 points. But outside of Bradley, the Warriors defense held the Pistons in check and that, when coupled with Durant dominating in all phases of the game, led to a Warriors victory.
Who is your Warrior Wonder against the Pistons last night?
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