The most striking image to have come out of Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers is that of Steve Kerr channeling Dr. Bruce Banner when he transforms into the Incredible Hulk. It was the proverbial cherry on top for a night where the Warriors were clearly gassed and devoid of any motivation to give their best effort.
It was the second game of a back-to-back, and two of their important bench players — Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — were sent to an early vacation. DeMarcus Cousins was also rested, and the Warriors were forced to reach deep into their bench to supplement their four All-Stars.
Klay Thompson had a horrible shooting night, shooting 2-of-16 from the field, 2-of-7 from three, and finished with only 9 points. The frustration from him was evident, helped (or stoked) in big part by Zach Collins’ sudden burst of trash talk that forced a few verbal barbs out of the normally stoic Thompson.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined for 64 points, living up to their reputation as the best 1-2 punch in the NBA today. Despite everyone else on the team laying a collective dud, the duo — who were bound to go to Charlotte almost immediately after the game — were the only ones playing like they still had something left in their tank.
Durant the scoring machine
Durant has been on a tear from inside the arc this season. Going into the All-Star break, he is shooting at a scorching rate on two-point field goals — 45-of-60 during the last five games (75 percent). Scoring versatility has always been Durant’s main selling point, but this season is proving to be one where he is taking the mantle of mid-range king for himself.
In the first quarter alone, Durant went on a personal scoring run consisting mostly of mid-range shots that came from a variety of actions. He is more than capable of taking it by himself and scoring one-on-one against virtually any player in the world, and that is a luxury that the Warriors are glad to have. But the team also gives Durant plenty of opportunities to score by running him through several screens, which can force mismatches or open up lanes for Durant to shoot or drive.
Some of Durant’s points came from the Warriors’ penchant for turning defensive stops into instant offense on the other end. With players like Durant on the floor, failure to score or committing a turnover is a near death sentence for opposing teams.
The most notable of these following clips is the third one, where Durant absolutely wipes out Damian Lillard’s dunk attempt. On the other end, this translates into points when Durant gets the step on his defender and manages to lay the ball in despite two defenders going up to challenge him.
Durant has been struggling from three-point range this season. His three-point field goal percentage of 36.2 percent this season is below his career mark of 38.2, and it has been a factor as to why he is compensating by opting to shoot inside the arc or scoring through drives and layups.
Against the Blazers, Durant’s three-point shooting stroke returned; out of four attempts, he buried all but one of them. A personal observation: Durant seems to have adjusted the arc on his threes by making them higher. So far, it seems to be working.
Curry keeps on shooting
As always, Curry’s reputation as the greatest shooter of all time also forces defenses to play tightly on him. While he still finds ways to knock down threes despite those attempts at shutting him down, he is often chased away from the perimeter, forcing him to drive inside or settle for mid-range jumpers — shots that he is still capable of knocking down at an elite level.
Of course, Curry still got in a few threes against the Blazers — but at a 5-of-14 clip (35.7 percent), he struggled to justify his perpetual green light that is rightly his, especially during the closing stretches of the game. He hasn’t been the lights out, dominant shooter that he has been during the early part of the season, but maybe all he needs is a week of non-competitive basketball, as well as time with family to recharge and prepare for the late season push.
Most of his threes here are from Curry being Curry — that is, him being the perpetual motion machine that he is through his constant relocations that catch the defense with their pants down.
In the end, the Warriors sputtered into the All-Star break with a loss that broke their 11-game road win streak, with tired legs and a shorthanded roster facing a team that stood to gain more from a regular season win against the Warriors, who have largely nothing to prove against a previous playoff scalp.
Additionally, the Blazers benefited from several questionable calls, starting with Curry being denied a three-point trip to the foul line because of the referee dubiously classifying the infraction as a call on the floor.
This all culminated in Draymond Green being called for a highly questionable flagrant foul that looked like it was a hard common foul, a swipe that clearly had no intention other than to strip away the ball.
Kerr went absolutely bonkers on referee Ken Mauer, and rightfully so, after Green gets called for something that was more likely due to his reputation rather than it being a legitimate flagrant foul.
Coach Kerr LOST IT after Dray was given a flagrant foul pic.twitter.com/mIVJo55tRj— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 14, 2019
Staying true to his reputation as a clipboard murderer, Kerr smashed the clipboard he was holding to the ground and was promptly given his marching orders. While Kerr’s tirade was entertaining and made for good television, it was also a pleasing sight for fans to see, in the sense that Kerr is more than willing to stand up for his own players with no regard for the consequences.
As Kerr smashes another clipboard to the ground and has, more than likely, arrived in his San Diego home for his well-deserved break, let us all also embody the spirit of Kerr and the Warriors, who were all clearly checked out and ready to go into vacation mode after that 8-point swing killed their chances of mounting a comeback — us fans and writers who cover the team could also use the break to prepare ourselves for the eventual chaos and drama that the playoffs will most certainly bring.
And plenty of credit must be given to the Blazers, who took advantage of good play from their supporting cast and a serendipitous series of calls to gain another victory in the regular season over the defending champions. Perhaps they can also take this same winning attitude and mindset to the playoffs, when such attributes become even more necessary.
Until then, have a good and relaxing All-Star break.
Fifty-seven down, 25 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.