Sizzling Steph Curry reunites with Kevin Durant in trivial Warriors loss to Jazz
In Curry's first game with Durant back on the floor, he kept up his hot streak (28 points in 30 minutes)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The only lingering question after Kevin Durant’s long-awaited return to the court Saturday night was answered in a hurry Monday night. Stephen Curry needed one quarter to prove that Durant’s presence on the court wouldn’t wreck his return to MVP form.
Sure, the Warriors’ winning streak is over at 14 games, but who really cares?
Just like how Saturday’s result against the Pelicans (a win) meant nothing due to the absences of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Curry, Monday’s result was also meaningless considering Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Klay Thompson sat. Despite the close score in the fourth quarter, Curry didn’t see the floor. Durant took a spot on the bench with 7:41 showing on the game clock. The Warriors certainly didn’t care about the final result -- neither should anyone else.
Monday’s game held significance only because it was the first time Durant and Curry shared the court since February.
“That was part of the idea tonight,” said Steve Kerr, “to get them as many minutes together as possible.”
The idea was well executed. Curry and Durant were in sync almost immediately. Curry assisted on the Warriors’ first basket of the game (a 20-foot Durant jumper) while Durant hit Curry with a well-timed pass at the top of the arc for Curry’s first 3 of the game minutes later. It turns out Durant was correct when he said Friday at practice that they wouldn’t undergo an adjustment phase.
He had a similar message after Monday’s game.
Fair point. In his first 12 minutes on the floor, Curry scored 15 points, connected on all three of his attempts from deep, and missed only one shot.
When they took Curry out in the second quarter, the Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket. When they put him back in, they exploded.
He contributed in more ways than scoring:
At halftime, Curry had racked up 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He made five of his first six 3s. He certainly wasn’t rusty after missing one game with a knee contusion. In his 13 games previous to Monday, Curry was shooting exactly 50 percent overall and 47.4 percent from beyond the arc. He shot 56.25 percent from the field and 75 percent from 3 against the Jazz. So, the hot streak continues.
But Durant entered halftime with 4 points on 2 of 5 shooting. He, on the other hand, is still rusty after his lengthy time away.
Durant did break out a bit after halftime, beginning to show glimpses of his old self. He made his first two shots, the second of which looked very much like a healthy Kevin Durant.
And then, he electrified Oracle with a thunderous dunk:
He did it again early in the fourth. This time, it was a contested slam:
“It felt really good,” Durant said. “I can’t lie.”
Putting those dunks aside, it’s worth noting Durant still struggled with his outside game. He missed all five of his shots from deep Monday after going 0 for 4 in his return.
“Points, I don’t worry about that because I feel like I’ve got a good advantage on that end,” Durant said. “But I’ve got to call somebody because my 3-pointer isn’t working. I’ve got to figure that out. They looked great tonight, too. I should’ve been 10 for 12 tonight from the field. I got some shots that I should’ve made, that I normally make. But I’ve got to make that call, because my 3-pointer isn’t working right now.”
That doesn’t seem like a situation that’ll continue too long into the future, given who we’re talking about. Durant is still Durant. His shooting touch will reappear. He also found ways to contribute despite his lack of a shot, gathering 10 boards and accumulating six assists to go along with 16 points. A down game for Durant is a double-double.
The point being, don’t read too much into this loss. Don’t read anything into it at all. Even Kerr isn’t. When asked what his biggest takeaway was, the only thing he listed was the lack of injuries the Warriors’ suffered in the process. The second question during his brief press conference was a sarcastic one from ESPN’s Ethan Strauss, who asked Kerr if he’ll ever get over this “brutal loss.” Kerr played along.
The press conference ended in fitting fashion.
“There’s really not much to talk about,” Kerr said. “Take care.”
And so, we’ve arrived at the end of Part I of the Warriors’ story. To this point, they’ve answered all of the big questions.
After shipping away two starters to make room for Durant, the Warriors effectively adjusted to life with their new star, marching out to the league’s best record. After losing Durant to an injury, the Warriors adjusted again and ripped off 13 consecutive victories. After regaining Durant, the Warriors tossed aside the notion that their star wouldn’t be able to reintegrate into a peaking lineup. Curry went off with Durant on the floor, too. Durant, himself, shook the idea he would be a shell of himself after injuring his knee, immediately beginning his first game back with a reverse jam.
That doesn’t mean he’s completely back. Durant admitted he has been a “little hesitant” so far in these first two games, especially in the first half. But that’s to be expected after he missed 19 games.
That also doesn’t mean the Warriors don’t have any smaller issues to figure out. Matt Barnes is dealing with an ankle injury. Kerr is tinkering with his rotations. He has to decide if he wants to rest any of his players against the Lakers on Wednesday. Unlike last season, when the Warriors were chasing 73 wins, Kerr can actually regulate the minutes of his stars so that they’re fresh for the playoffs.
The Warriors have officially answered the questions that matter most, the ones that followed them into and throughout the regular season. What happens in their season finale is irrelevant, barring any injuries. The only thing that matters is what happens beyond.
The two best point guards in the East go at it in a series sure to be filled with drama.
Breaking down key matchups as the second season reaches the conference semifinal series
The second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs tips off Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, with Game 1 of Cel...
The Spurs have homecourt advantage, and will host Game 1 Monday night at 9:30 p.m. ET
All-Star guard flew to Washington after Game 6 vs. Bulls to attend his sister's funeral Sa...
Some love for the Rockets over the Spurs, and at least one expert says the Cavs are going...