After their slip-up in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors were forced to travel back down to Southern California for a Game 6 at the Staples Center. Though it took them about half the first quarter to get into a groove, the Warriors eventually settled in and seized control of Friday night’s game. Behind an individual offensive game for the ages and a better defensive effort, the Warriors earned the 129-110 win. The Game 6 win ended the Clippers’ season and the Warriors thus advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Durant was in the zone for Game 6, to put it mildly
After scoring 45 points in Wednesday’s Game 5 loss, Kevin Durant came out and delivered an even more dominant performance in Game 6, making sure the Warriors secured the win and were able to move on to the second round.
In Game 6, Durant scored another playoff career-high on Friday night, dropping 50 points as the Warriors officially started the Clippers’ summer vacation. With the 50 points, Durant joined Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, and Sleepy Floyd as the only Warriors players to score 50+ points in a playoff game. Durant also became just the eighth player in NBA history to score 45+ points in consecutive playoff games.
Durant went 6/14 from long distance in Game 6. Those six makes were a season-high for him from three-point range. 2018-19 had been a subpar season for Durant when it came to shooting from three-point range. In fact, his three-point shooting percentage was the lowest since the early seasons of his career. But you wouldn’t have known that after watching Durant play on Friday night.
Durant scored 38 of his points in the first half, which tied the record for most points in the first half of a playoff game. Durant’s 38 first-half points were more than any other player scored in the entirety of Game 6.
But the Warriors needed Durant’s points early in the game. The Clippers held a ten-point lead in the first quarter as many of the Warriors struggled to make consistently shots. But Durant answers the bell, scoring at a remarkable (and remarkably efficient) rate while putting his team on his back to get a series-clinching win.
After the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said of Durant’s Game 6 that “It was one of the great performances I’ve seen in my life.” Kerr wasn’t the only member of the Warriors testifying to Durant’s greatness after the win.
I asked Looney when he noticed KD was doing something special. Said he looked up and KD has 35. Said he’s the best player in the league. pic.twitter.com/xtGxMalrQR— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 27, 2019
In the discussion surrounding this series, Durant was the primary topic of the conversation and quite a bit of unjust criticism was placed at the feet of the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP. The Warriors’ two losses in the series were by and large attributed to him. Even as he scored a (then) playoff career-high in Game 5, there were the cries that the team couldn’t win when Durant was the focus, that him scoring too much would make the team lose and that a team with him at the center could never win.
After the Game 2 collapse, you heard the cries of the exact opposite, that Durant needed to shoot more and be a more prevalent force in the Warriors’ offense. Of course, you heard the conjecture that Durant had one foot out the door, was already thinking about the new team he’d be playing with next season and thus wasn’t involved with the team. He wasn’t engaged with his teammates, wasn’t supporting them. It went on and on.
On Friday night, as he dropped 50 points on the Clippers to wrap up this tough opening-round series, Durant gave a loud and direct rebuke to those who would dare offer up such basketball blasphemies about him. His play should quiet the incessant criticism of his play, for a little while at least. There should be no mistake or equivocation about it—Durant is firmly and fully committed to winning a championship this year and if the Warriors are to three-peat he’s going to have to be an enormous part of it.
Closeout Draymond returns
While Durant gave the Warriors the scoring they needed, Draymond Green gave them just about everything else. Green finished the Game 6 win with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his fifth career postseason triple-double. Quite a few of Green’s assists came on easy lobs and passes to players at the rim, as the Clippers had no defense answer as Green picked them apart.
Green was also locked in defensively against the Clippers. After taking responsibility for the team’s lack of defensive intensity to start Game 5, Green more than made up for it in Game 6. Green was everywhere, contenting shots and forcing the Clippers into turnovers. On Friday night, you saw how the Warriors really take their cues defensively from Green as though his energy and determination gave them that push to give it their all on the defensive end.
With Green leading the way, the Warriors did a much better job defending the Clippers. Outside of Danilo Gallinari (who scored 29 points) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who scored 22 points but with quite a few of those points coming when the game had been more-or-less decided), the Clippers struggled to get anything going on Friday night.
After what transpired in the same building back in November, it was a nice bit of poetry that Durant and Green led the team to the series-clinching win. Perhaps this win will cast whatever was still lingering around the team from that incident into the great abyss. We shall see.
A first-team All-Defensive team performance from Thompson
Another part of that impressive Warriors’ defensive effort was Klay Thompson. While Thompson struggled shooting the ball (he scored 9 points, going 3/10 from the field and 1⁄4 from three-point range), he more than made up for that on defense. Thompson blocked 3 shots and also had 1 steal against the Clippers. One of Thompson’s blocks came in the first quarter as he rejected a Gilgeous-Alexander shot that turned into a Durant dunk on the other end of the court.
Thompson was one of the Warriors’ players tasked with slowing down the electric Lou Williams, who scored 36 and 33 points in the Clippers’ two wins in this opening-round series. Williams was significantly less productive on Friday night, scoring just 8 points on 3/21 shooting. If the Clippers were going to push this series to seven games, they needed another great performance from Williams. Thompson and the Warriors made sure that didn’t happen.
After the game, Kerr was quick to praise Thompson’s defensive effort and made it clear just how highly he regards the shooting guard’s ability as a defender, saying “Klay needs to be on the All-Defensive team.” He played like someone who belongs on that team in Game 6.
Andre Iguodala, forever young
Another player who helped to slow down Williams was Andre Iguodala. Many wondered if Kerr wouldn’t go with the “Hamptons 5” lineup to start the game. But Kerr elected to keep Iguodala on the bench in his normal role, in part to keep his playing time line up with when the Clippers’ would play Williams.
But Iguodala did more than just help to contain the Clippers’ explosive offensive weapon. Iguodala contributed some offense of his own, scoring 15 points in the Game 6 win. Quite a few of those points came courtesy of a Green assist, like this dunk late in the second quarter
Iguodala’s seeming rejuvenation in the playoffs, playing with the energy that he had when he was fresh in the league, is exactly what you want to see as the Warriors move on to the next round to face their chief nemesis—the Houston Rockets. The Warriors don’t get much time to rest as Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals tips off on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 pm Pacific Time at Oracle Arena.