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The Golden Breakdown: Amid Durant’s media silence, the Warriors’ excellence spoke volumes

While questions of Durant’s free agency remain dangling over their heads, the Warriors imposed their will against a depleted Spurs roster.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In the grand scheme of things, three days of rest is a short amount of time — yet it becomes a luxury during the grind of a long 82-game season, where even a day’s worth of rest is cherished and appreciated.

On the other hand, three days of rest can give way to the creation of narratives that are allowed to germinate and fester. Amid the chaos of the NBA trade deadline period, the Warriors found themselves as vulnerable as anyone in terms of speculation and drama, one that took the form of Kevin Durant’s media silence in the wake of Kristaps Porzingis being traded from the New York Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks.

In the span of three days, the media hovered over the Durant situation, itching to get breadcrumbs from the two-time Finals MVP like pigeons in a park waiting to be fed. But Durant just wouldn’t give it to them, opting instead to avoid questions like the plague.

Some members of the media were relentless in their pursuit of answers, as if Durant owed it to them to provide fuel for the narrative of his impending free agency.

The notion of Durant owing the fans a comment pertaining to his free agency is a shaky one — he has helped the organization win two championships, and has given Dub Nation a three-year showcase of an all-time great. Durant doesn’t “owe” anyone anything; he has given more than what was asked of him upon taking his talents to the Bay Area.

Durant may have chosen to give the silent treatment to several people, but his and the team’s performance on the court was anything but silent. Against a shorthanded San Antonio Spurs team — playing without LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan — the Warriors let their excellence speak for itself.

The Warriors have made it a habit to continually leave marks on the history books, and Wednesday night was no different. In a game that stayed close all throughout the first half, the Warriors finally stamped their class in the second half against a depleted roster, scoring 49 points in the third quarter while shooting 17-of-22 from the field (77.3 percent), 5-of-7 from three (71.4 percent), and dishing out 16 assists — a franchise record for assists in a single quarter.

The third quarter was certainly full of highlights exhibiting high-level play on both ends of the floor. When the Warriors are focused, there is no other team that is more entertaining to watch.

The Warriors’ third quarter rampage

The Warriors’ first assist of the third quarter comes from an unusual overplay by a Spurs defender on Draymond Green. Overplaying someone like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson is understandable, given that they are two of the greatest shooters in history. On the other hand, Green is by no means an immediate threat on the perimeter.

But the Spurs overplay him anyway, and as a result, Green overpowers his man and cuts inside to receive the pass for a dunk.

While the Warriors were in tune all night long offensively, a significant part of that offense came as a result of being defensively locked in. Sometimes, the best offense comes from great defense, and the Warriors display that in this sequence, where Green disrupts an attempted alley-oop through excellent weak side help defense. Thompson gets hold of the ball and passes it ahead to Durant in transition for the dunk.

Durant returns the favor after the Warriors get another stop. Pushing the pace in transition — as the Warriors always do — Durant passes to Thompson in the corner, who drives along the baseline and slashes his way inside for a layup.

The sight of the Warriors’ ball movement never gets old; it is a joy to watch when the epitome of egalitarian basketball is on full display, and the Warriors are at their best when they are in hardwood tiki-taka mode. Watch this sequence, which is quite simple in its structure, yet still as deadly as ever with the kind of personnel the Warriors possess.

Another example of defense leading to immediate offense comes in this sequence, where Durant manages to steal the ball as a result of his activity and full engagement on defense. As expected, the Warriors push the pace in order to take advantage of lackluster transition defense, with Curry locating Green up ahead for the dunk.

The Warriors get another steal that is made possible by Green’s excellent defense on Rudy Gay. He tries to shake Green off, but to no avail — Green’s footwork is near perfect, allowing him to keep up with Gay, smother him, and force him to pass the ball to Curry.

On the other end, Curry passes to Durant on the wing, who fakes and drives inside. With help from Cousins’ seal, Durant has a wide open lane for a dunk.

While a bit shaky and chaotic in its initial stages, this sequence is another shining example of ball movement from the Warriors. The Spurs do their best at defending, but the Warriors are relentless in their attempt to find small chinks in the armor — and they finally find one, courtesy of Thompson’s excellent pocket pass to a rolling Andre Iguodala, who plays the 2-on-1 perfectly by passing to Kevon Looney down low and generating a three-point play.

In this sequence, an interchange between Curry and Durant forces a switch, and Durant gets matched up against a smaller defender. This flows into split action, where Curry takes advantage of his defender’s momentary lapse by cutting inside and receiving the pass for the layup.

The Warriors keep it simple in this sequence, where Thompson has a size and height advantage over Bryn Forbes. Listed at 6-feet-3 inches, Forbes has a difficult time — as expected — with stopping the 6-foot-7-inch Thompson’s turnaround mid-range jumper.

The Spurs are usually known for their defensive discipline, but they are made to pay for the lack of it in this sequence. After Durant hauls in the rebound, Thompson runs along the right side and is allowed to stroll unmarked toward the three-point line. Durant passes to Thompson, who casually goes up for the three and buries it.

Even with a big lead, the Warriors are still relentless on the defensive end. They force another turnover by funneling Forbes into a dead-end drive, and his wayward pass gets intercepted by Durant’s long reach. Curry immediately runs ahead and receives the pass from Durant for the layup.

This is immediately followed up by another three by Thompson from the left corner, who receives the pass from Durant after the Spurs produce another dud of a possession on offense. At this point, the Spurs have clearly been demoralized from the Warriors’ seemingly unstoppable surge of two-way brilliance.

With the Warriors riding a hot streak of shooting, Iguodala tries his luck by shooting a corner three, courtesy of a Curry skip pass. As if to pay tribute to Curry, Iguodala turns around before the shot even goes in, and his gamble pays off in spades. The bench goes wild, and the Warriors stretch their lead to the point where the outcome is all but official.

The Warriors get another stop, and the subsequent transition opportunity is almost squandered when Jonas Jerebko fails to gain complete control of the ball. He manages to save the ball toward Iguodala, who sees the trailing Durant streaking toward the basket like a bullet train and passes him the ball for the emphatic dunk — one that seemed like it had the weight of bottled-up emotions and angst behind it.

That dunk from Durant capped off another top-notch performance — 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists. He shot an efficient 9-of-13 from the field (69.2 percent) while knocking down 3 of his 4 attempts from beyond the arc (75 percent).

However, Durant wasn’t done for the night. He had one more emphatic slam dunk left in him — and the Spurs weren’t the victims.

After a feel-good win where the Warriors were running on all cylinders, Durant finally decided to break his media silence. As expected, questions pertaining to his free agency and his avoidance of the media were immediately thrown his way.

Knowing the kind of person that he is — and the fact that he more than likely does not miss one single thing that is written about him on social media and the internet as a whole — Durant let out all he wanted to say to the media. The comment that certain media members felt that fans “deserved” from him came in the form of a scathing rebuke of how the topic of his free agency has been turned into a carcass for the vultures to feast upon.

The Warriors’ excellent play against the Spurs spoke volumes — this exchange between Durant and the local media spoke even louder:

Everyone will have their opinions on this exchange, and there are certainly valid arguments for both sides. But one thing cannot be argued against, and that is Durant’s pure passion for playing basketball the right way. It is that passion that has helped the Warriors — including Curry, Thompson, Green, Cousins, and the supporting cast — become the excellence of execution.

At this point of the season, it simply does not matter if Durant has made up his mind in terms of staying or leaving. He has earned the right to decide for himself where he goes, and one can only wish him well and support him in whatever endeavor will make him happy. What matters at this point is the goal at hand, and that is winning another championship.

When the dust has cleared away, and the championship has been decided — for better or for worse — Durant’s decision will then be the only thing left to settle. That is a problem best left for the late June/early July Warriors to worry about.

For now, all these February Warriors need to concern themselves with is to finish the second half of the season as a strong and united brotherhood. And if the game against the Spurs was any indication, they are well on their way to accomplishing such a feat.

Fifty-three down, 29 more to go.

Stay Golden, Dub Nation.

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