Sometimes, you can feel the momentum of a game hinge on a single play.
Such was the case on Monday night. The Golden State Warriors started the game much like a middle school band: Excellent energy, horrendous rhythm. They fell behind early, and the deficit got bigger, and bigger.
The Orlando Magic made their case for that game-changing moment late in the second quarter, when Terrence Ross completed a four-point play, and followed it up with a three-pointer to give the Magic an 18-point lead. But it didn’t feel quite right.
Fast forward to the third quarter, and it’s still an 18-point Orlando lead. We’re halfway through the frame when the Magic find themselves on a fast break, an open layup away from taking a commanding 20-point lead.
But streaking from the other side of the court came Kevin Durant, and like the protagonist in a superhero film, he flew onto the screen to save the day. It was a jaw-dropping chase-down block, and, even at the time, felt like it might be the game’s deciding play.
It jump started the Warriors on both ends of the court, and, following that play, they went on a 21-7 run to end the quarter. Things were close going into the fourth. The Magic weren’t going to go away.
But neither was Durant. And neither was Klay Thompson. The Warriors stars flexed their collective muscles - Thompson, who had had a relatively quiet game to that point, put up a 19-point fourth quarter that included five triples. He finished with 29 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Durant took it a step further. Looking every bit like one of the most dominant scorers in the history of the NBA, KD scored from every part of the floor, at the times when the Warriors needed it most. He was cold-blooded. He was gold-blooded. He was ruthless, efficient, timely, dramatic.
He ended the game with 49 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals, while shooting 16-33 from the field and 13-13 from the free throw line. And in a game the Warriors won by six, Golden State was + 13 with KD on the floor.
The heroics of the team’s stars will get the headlines (as they should), and hide some of the unfortunate play that got the team down 18 points in the first place. There were sloppy plays and careless fouls, brain lapses and poor rotations.
But that’s the main reason you have stars in the first place. So you can give them the ball, and let them win the game.
And to the tune of 116-110, that’s exactly what happened.