On a night where it seemed like the Golden State Warriors were about to give another Big Apple team a beatdown — being up by as much as sixteen points — the Nets furiously rallied through a combination of a barrage of three-pointers, and several instances of defensive breakdowns by the Warriors.
Even when the Nets cut the deficit to a mere two points, there was a certain feeling of confidence, as if the Warriors — despite their not-so-stellar play in the last period — would still come out with the victory in the end. And they most certainly did, courtesy of perhaps the best insurance policy in the league: the one-two punch of Durant and Stephen Curry.
The Nets unleash their fourth quarter artillery
The Nets began to wax hot in the fourth quarter, beginning with this three from Spencer Dinwiddie:
The defensive breakdown from the Warriors came when Draymond Green unnecessarily helped Durant on Allen Crabbe’s drive. Durant had good defensive coverage on Crabbe, and was in prime position to block his drive. Nevertheless, Green sags off of Dinwiddie toward the paint. Crabbe makes a good pass to Dinwiddie, who buries the three despite Green’s desperate contest.
The Nets’ second three-pointer came from a switch between Crabbe and Joe Harris. Crabbe gets Jonas Jerebko switched onto him, instead of Green:
An off-ball screen by Harris for Crabbe forces Green to switch onto Harris, due to Harris slipping the screen and popping out — the Nets would rather have the ball with someone who is not defended by the former Defensive Player of the Year. Crabbe — who has Jerebko on him — gets the ball and pulls up for the three, despite Jerebko’s decent contest.
The Warriors get the lead back up to sixteen points, courtesy of a couple of made jumpers from Durant and Klay Thompson. After a timeout, the Nets draw up a play consisting of a dribble handoff flowing into a ball reversal and pick. The Warriors initially defend the actions well through timely switching. Take note of Alfonzo McKinnie, positioned on the left corner:
McKinnie mistakenly anticipates a switch between him and Green. This brief moment of hesitation allows Crabbe the time and space he needs to pop out beyond the arc and bury the three.
In the next sequence, Crabbe inbounds the ball, and McKinnie picks him up. Again, watch how McKinnie defends Crabbe:
After Crabbe throws in the ball, McKinnie cuts off the right side from Crabbe — which allows Crabbe the freedom to move to the left toward Jarett Allen, who hands off the ball to him. Green’s contest is decent, but Crabbe gets enough of a rhythm and enough space to make another three.
Another lapse in defense allows the Nets to bury another three. Take note of Durant during this sequence:
Caris LeVert penetrates and makes his way inside, but the Warriors pack the paint, stopping LeVert in his tracks. Meanwhile, D’Angelo Russell runs toward the corner, sneaking past Durant, whose attention is focused on the action going on in the paint. LeVert makes the good pass to Russell for the open three, salvaging the possession for the Nets.
This allows Russell to get his shooting rhythm. On the Nets’ next possession, McKinnie gets a decent contest on Russell’s pull-up three, but Russell makes it anyway:
With all the momentum going their way, the Nets’ confidence levels reach their zenith. LeVert is covered and defended well, but he nevertheless buries the three in Durant’s face:
The Warriors allow the Nets to cut the deficit to four points, courtesy of two consecutive breakdowns on defense:
The Nets run a great inbounds play involving a curling LeVert, which flows into a pick-and-roll with Allen. Klay Thompson falls behind the rolling Allen, who gets the pass for the easy bucket.
The Nets get the shot they want from the Warriors on the other end — a three-point attempt from Green that is off the mark. This leads to a transition bucket by the Nets, where Thompson falls asleep and loses track of a backcutting LeVert. And just like that, the Nets are only down by four.
The Warriors’ one-two punch puts the Nets down for the count
The Nets cut the Warriors’ lead by two after Thompson allows Russell to drive past him for the layup. With just under two minutes left in the game, Steve Kerr unleashes the Warriors’ most dangerous play:
The Curry/Durant pick-and-roll is finally unsheathed. Curry draws the attention of two defenders, while KD rolls toward the basket, receives the ball, and rises up for the jumper.
After a defensive stop, the Warriors run the play again:
After being burned by Durant in the previous possession, the Nets become wary of his rolling action — while forgetting that Curry is the greatest shooter in the history of the league. Durant’s pick allows Curry all the space he needs for the dagger.
Curry and Durant combine for 69 points — a pretty nice number of points from the Warriors’ two superstars. So far in this season, their level of synergy is at a point where it has never been before during the regular season.
In seven games, Curry has averages of 33.9 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 5.6 assists per game, on shooting splits of 52.9/51.7/90.6. Meanwhile, Durant is averaging 30.3 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, and 5.9 assists per game, on shooting splits of 55.6/35.5/93.2.
If this quality of play from the two is maintained, there may be legitimate calls for both Curry and Durant to be declared co-MVPs — an occurrence that is not entirely impossible, but is statistically improbable. If anything, the greatness that these two display on a nightly basis might end up in them cannibalizing votes away from each other.
However, the pursuit of individual awards pales in comparison to the pursuit of team glory. Both Curry and Durant have previously won MVPs — individually, they have nothing else to prove, as their places among the all-time basketball greats are secure. They have both shown a willingness to play for the greater good of the team — they lead by example, and the team unquestioningly follows their lead, as they should.
The Warriors sweep their yearly New York roadtrip, with the team that needed to impress Durant falling flat, and the team with no bets in the Durant sweepstakes giving a good show and an admirable effort.
Durant to Brooklyn?
Seven down, 75 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.