Down by 18 at halftime and mired in a malaise on both sides of the ball, the Golden State Warriors were not supposed to win this game.
That was until Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson emptied their clips, and powered the Warriors to a 116-110 comeback victory over the Orlando Magic. Durant exploded with a season-high 49 points while Thompson chipped in with 29. With 78 points between the two and not much offensive production from anyone else, coach Kerr had to lean on the Strength in his stars to win.
Defense leading to Offense
The Warriors’ tendency to lock in and lock down on defense and having it to catalyze buckets on the other end is common knowledge at this point. However, the reminder was on full display Monday night. Durant’s chase down block in the third quarter shifted the momentum to the Warriors and ignited the comeback.
Notice how quickly the Warriors moved in transition and as a result, Iguodala drained a jumper. Be it a block or a steal, the Warriors push the issue and score easily out of forcing a turnover. This is not by accident.
Early in the game, Thompson, for whatever reason, elected to shoot more middies as opposed to threes. Quinn Cook also had moments where he passed up some decent looks from three and decided to shoot a midrange jumper. This trend has been one of the most puzzling things about the skid. While the opponents had no problem letting the threes fly, the Warriors were hesitant beyond the arc. Shooting twos were understandable during that stretch since the ‘Dubs shot poorly from it. Last night, the Warriors shot 37 percent from three. Against the Kings, 29 percent. The Thunder, an alarming 24 percent. Although passing up clean looks from deep is aggravating at times, during this stretch it was nearly a necessity.
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Whenever Stephen Curry is out, obviously Durant’s usage rate goes way up. Since the Warriors were once again without Curry and Draymond Green, it was up to Durant to dominate on both ends of the floor, which he did. The difference between what happened during the losing streak and now is the fact that Durant also stepped up his defense as well as his offense. In the Portland and Sacramento games, Durant registered a combined five blocks. Last night, he had two. Durant, when engaged on defense is virtually unstoppable. He proved it on that end just as much as he proved it offensively. While DeMarcus Cousins is inching closer to a return, the Warriors still have a carousel of young, raw, bigs that will need help in the paint from a capable shot blocker. Oftentimes, people forget what Durant does defensively because his prolific offense shadows it. For the Warriors to continue their winning ways, it may take more of Durant contesting drives and shots to the rim.