“I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”
By now you’e certainly read or heard those words dozens of times, uttered by . . . well . . . Kevin Durant between Games 2 and 3 of the Golden State Warriors first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
He’s right, of course. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a name specialist to tell you that. It doesn’t even take Doc Rivers, who said prior to Thursday’s game that, when it came to Kevin Durant confirming that he is indeed Kevin Durant, well, “my reaction was that he’s right.”
Pure gold from Doc when asked about KD’s “I’m Kevin Durant” comment. pic.twitter.com/Cm5niPCYQH— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 19, 2019
Of course, Durant’s comments were not meant to be taken literally. Of course Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant - tautology is alive and well. The subtext, which Durant made no attempt to conceal, was that he’s one of the greatest scorers alive. One of the greatest scorers that’s ever been alive. One of the greatest scorers that ever will be alive.
And then the game came and went, and just as Durant’s literal statement can be proved beyond question by glancing at his ID, his intended statement can be proved beyond question by watching Thursday’s 48 minutes of action.
Or, to put it more succinctly is Draymond Green: “Not many people can stop Kevin if Kevin don’t wanna be stopped.”
“Not many people can stop Kevin if Kevin don’t wanna be stopped” pic.twitter.com/GIg4lRSgSt— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 19, 2019
Durant, after taking just 24 shots in the first two games combined, fired off 23 attempts on Thursday, despite playing fewer than 30 minutes.
The discussion leading into the game was that the Warriors needed him to be more aggressive - a notion that seemed to bristle Durant, as well as Steph Curry and Steve Kerr.
In hindsight, that never should have been the discussion.
The Clippers made it a goal to take the ball out of Durant’s hands, and they lived with Curry beating them in Games 1 and 2. In Game 3, the dynamic shifted, not so much because of what the Clippers did, but because of how the Warriors decided to attack it.
To borrow football parlance, Golden State moved north-south more, and east-west less. When the ball entered the elbow or the block - either to Durant or Green - the team cut with abandon and speed, resembling a laser show if you blurred your eyes slightly. They ran more overload sets, increasing the openness for Durant, affording him more opportunities to, in his words, be Kevin Durant.
Curry, who took 34 shots in Games 1 and 2, hoisted just 11 attempts.
Yet he wasn’t subject to the criticisms that Durant faced. No one questioned whether Curry was committed, aggressive, or buying into the system.
Curry’s looks were the right looks. Just like Durant’s were.
After the game, Durant credited the volume increase to one thing: “Coach called more plays for me.”
Everyone views things differently, and we all bring our own biases to the table. The above statement from Durant came during a fascinating, and slightly tense exchange between he and reporter Chris Haynes - someone who gets along with Durant very well.
Kevin Durant told he’s been pass first lately: “That’s not true. I don’t pass up shots. I play within the offense.” pic.twitter.com/Gi4MMzqrDD— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 19, 2019
Your preconceived notions of Durant will vary from mine, will vary from everyone else’s. Saying, “I don’t run the show. Any team I’ve ever been a part of, I’m just a player,” can be dissected as a shot at Kerr just as easily as it can be dissected as an unabashed commitment to acting in the best interest of the team, individual accolades and criticism be damned.
At some point, that retreaded discussion sees its nuance fade. Eventually, it ceases to matter whether you pronounce it “toe-may-toe” or “toe-mah-toe.”
Durant had 38 points on 26 shooting possessions. His true-shooting percentage in the series is a blistering 70.2%, and the Warriors offensive rating is 119.6 - 7.1 points per 100 possessions better than it was during the regular season.
The Warriors dominated on Thursday, and at the center was Durant, equally dominant, in his own way.
Durant won, and the system won. You can pit those against each other or link them in the middle. But they both won, and that’s all that matters.