Cue in that Roy Jones song:
“Ya’ll must’ve forgot!”
And some people did forget. They forgot about the contributions, the sacrifice, and the willingness to be part of something greater than himself. They forgot about the dagger three over the ghost that once played in Cleveland. They forgot about that similar dagger three, in virtually the same exact spot, one year later.
All everyone wanted to see was for Kevin Durant to show something so exhilarating, so eye-catching, so that everyone who forgot — either because they were blinded by panic or by pure, unfounded hate — would have their memories refreshed. Those people needed to be reminded that the Warriors had in their roster a 7-foot scoring machine, capable of taking over games and willing his team to victory. It was this will to win that once earned him a regular season MVP award, when his co-star point guard had to sit out for a considerable amount of time.
His nickname that most fans outside of Dub Nation has given him — that of a “snake” — is a well-deserved nickname, but not because he exercised his right as a grown man to play for an organization where he can be happy. He is a snake because he exhibits the same spirit as that venomous reptilian who once called Staples Center his den. Once opponents show a hint of weakness, Durant — keeping true to his cold-blooded nature — strikes and shows no mercy.
Faced with great adversity against an Orlando Magic team that was hungry to send the Warriors to their road trip with a soul-crushing defeat, Durant dug deep and showed something that everyone wanted to see from him. And he was all too willing to refresh the memories of those who forgot.
Durant’s exceptional third quarter
Going into the second half against the Magic, the Warriors were fortunate to be down by only seventeen. Both Durant and Klay Thompson were struggling, and their supporting cast were all but being supportive.
No one knows what Steve Kerr said to them in the locker room during halftime, but it may have had something to do with upping their defensive intensity — a much needed development that had to happen if the Warriors didn’t want to lose.
The Warriors begin the quarter with a simple connection between Durant and the struggling Damian Jones.
It’s a simple pick-and-roll, but the Magic defend it by having Nikola Vučević in drop coverage, leaving Jones uncovered to roll toward the basket. Durant’s pinpoint pass to Jones opens up the scoring for the Warriors.
To the chagrin of a considerable amount of fans, the Warriors have been settling for a lot of mid-range shots. Durant, who is one of the best mid-range shooters in the league, has been chided often for settling for those step-in jumpers — but his struggles from beyond the arc is perhaps what has made him settle for those “inefficient” shots.
Leading Scorers By Zone pic.twitter.com/GU5Yj4BIDq— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) November 26, 2018
While the Magic try their best to maintain their double-digit lead — and perhaps making it into an insurmountable lead — Durant isn’t willing to give up just yet. Proving to be the deadly mid-range shooter that he is, he buries a series of jumpers to cut the lead. The first shot comes off of a simple sideline pick-and-pop action with Quinn Cook.
The second shot comes from another pick-and-roll sequence with Jones, where Vučević is once again left on an island in drop coverage against an automatic Durant jumper.
In what was to be the first of many examples of great defense translating into points on the other end, Klay Thompson exhibits his ability to be absolutely stifling on defense by sticking to Evan Fournier like white on rice. He blocks Fournier’s shot, leading to Durant pushing the ball in transition and victimizing Vučević once more by burying a tough floater.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Warriors were able to return to their winning ways with exceptional defense, part of which was due to a renewed defensive effort from Durant. An athletic and lengthy player such as him has what it takes to become an elite defender, and he has shown glimpses of it when he is focused and willing.
With the Magic threatening to pull away even further, a possession goes awry for the Warriors, with Durant turning the ball over for what seems like an easy transition basket. But Durant redeems himself with this exceptional chasedown block.
Meanwhile, the Warriors get another defensive stop, with Andre Iguodala playing good defense on DJ Augustin. Durant hauls in the rebound and goes into full freight train mode, his long strides getting him to the basket in a matter of seconds.
The Warriors inch closer and closer, and Durant is slowly baring his fangs. He gets another opportunity to score on Vučević, using Kevon Looney’s high screen to break free for this easy mid-range jumper to cut the deficit to twelve.
The Warriors needed to clamp down the Magic’s offense, and they managed to do it, limiting the Magic to 19 points in the third quarter, while scoring 32 points to head into the fourth quarter with a four-point deficit. With Durant playing the entire third quarter, it was now Thompson’s turn to provide scoring and stability while Durant rests and waits till he can come back in and strike again.
Killa Klay in the fourth quarter
The Magic start off the fourth quarter with five unanswered points to stretch the lead to nine, a start that the Warriors most certainly did not want. With time not on their side, the Warriors start to set up Thompson for some three-point shots that will hopefully let them inch closer within striking distance.
With Shaun Livingston handling the ball up top, the Warriors use Jonas Jerebko to disguise this sequence as a high pick-and-roll. But the actual action involves Jordan Bell setting a solid pin down for Thompson, who breaks free and gets enough space to catch and shoot the three.
Getting another stop allows the Warriors to give the ball to Thompson again, attempting to take advantage of his hands that are slowly heating up. An early screen up high by Jerebko gets Thompson free and catches the defense with their pants down. All of a sudden, the lead has been cut down to three.
But the Magic refuse to budge. They stretch their lead back up to seven, and with Durant coming back in soon, Thompson takes it upon himself to keep the Warriors nipping at the Magic’s heels. He brings the ball up again and dribbles his way into a mid-range jumper.
Durant checks back in at just under the 8 minute mark, well-rested and ready to strike back at the Magic. Instant offense is generated when he hits a three off of a basic pick-and-pop action with Cook, complete with a money shot of Draymond Green clapping and shouting in approval.
Having had a time out to draw up another play, the Warriors elect to give the ball to Thompson, a wise choice seeing as how he is showing signs of staying hot. Looney comes up to fake a screen for Durant, but instead sets a pin down for Thompson in the left corner. This catches Thompson’s defender off guard, and he is unable to stop the three-point splash that cuts the Magic lead to one.
When something is working, it’s best to not stray away from it, and this is exactly what the Warriors do. Thompson fakes his defender out, running along the baseline and using the staggered screens to catch the pass from Durant, burying another three for the two-point lead amid deafening, “We Believe”-esque roars from the crowd.
As this author stated in another article, “never deprive the hand that goes hot.” Thompson, having taken the mantle of the Human Torch for this game, is the beneficiary of another classic set from the Warriors — their usual double high screen leading into a low post split, with Durant being the low post decision maker. Thompson gets a screen up top, catches the pass from Durant, and empties his clip.
The real Slim Reaper stands up
With the game all knotted up, crunch time is fast approaching, and Durant steps up to lead the Warriors to their third straight victory. Looney stands his ground and plays excellent defense on the dangerous Vučević. Durant brings up the ball and takes it all the way to the rack to score while getting fouled in the process.
Coming off his 44 point performance against the Sacramento Kings, Durant continued to be a living and breathing points factory, scoring 49 points while also having 9 assists. But three of those 49 points served as a special message directed toward his critics and detractors, including those members of the Warriors fandom whose faith in him began to waiver. This final shot — the venomous strike of the snake that once slayed a king — was what finally refreshed the memories of those people.
“Y’all must’ve forgot!”
Twenty-two down, 60 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.