Per­fect start for War­riors

Du­rant hogs the lime­light

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Jay Asser @Jay_Asser jayasser@sport360.com

In Game 1 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals, the Golden State War­riors were com­fort­able putting the ball in Kevin Du­rant’s hands and let­ting him work.

On a night Stephen Curry wasn’t rain­ing down his usual fire and Hous­ton Rock­ets guard James Harden was prac­ti­cally un­stop­pable, Du­rant was the fo­cal point for a War­riors of­fence that had no prob­lem let­ting their star for­ward cook in one-on-one sit­u­a­tions.

And cook Du­rant did, scor­ing 37 points on 14-of-27 shoot­ing to lead Golden State to a 119-106 vic­tory over the Rock­ets on the road.

Like Harden, who fin­ished with a game-high 41 points and pro­duced 1.67 points per play in 15 iso­la­tions, Du­rant was also dom­i­nant in isos, scor­ing 27 points on 10-of-13 shoot­ing, ac­cord­ing to ESPN Stats & Info.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two teams, how­ever, is their reliance on iso­la­tions. Whereas the Rock­ets’ main weapon is Harden and Chris Paul at­tack­ing one-on-one, the War­riors wield that ap­proach with Du­rant as a sec­ondary op­tion.

“We want to keep the ball mov­ing, but ob­vi­ously Kevin is the ul­ti­mate lux­ury be­cause a play can break down and you just throw him the ball,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He can get you a bucket as well as any­body on Earth. This is why any­body would want him on their team.

“You think about a cou­ple years ago, and we’re in the Fi­nals and we couldn’t quite get over the hump. Kevin is the guy that puts you over the hump. I don’t know what you do to guard him. He can get any shot he wants.”

On most other teams, Du­rant would likely be used heav­ily in oneon-one sit­u­a­tions, but with how fluid and tal­ented Golden State’s of­fence is, they have choices aplenty for ways to score.

Which is why Hous­ton coach Mike D’An­toni will live with Du­rant tak­ing what is nor­mally con­sid­ered a low-ef­fi­ciency shot, while try­ing to take away open looks for the War­riors shoot­ers.

“He is 7 feet and fall­ing away. He’s one of the best scor­ers ever, right? So I thought he was ex­tremely good. But we can with­stand that,” D’An­toni said of Du­rant.

“We can’t with­stand turn­ing the ball over, miss­ing layups, them get­ting out. Klay Thomp­son got up 15 [3-point­ers]. We can’t give him 15 3s. We’re switch­ing ev­ery­thing and stay­ing off for that rea­son, so we have to clean up some stuff and see if we can do it on Wed­nes­day.”

A scary no­tion for the Rock­ets, how­ever, is that Golden State can po­ten­tially be even bet­ter.

Curry was lim­ited to 18 points on 1-of-5 shoot­ing from deep, while they now have three of the next five games (if needed) at home.

“I don’t know if we’re at our peak,” Du­rant said. “I think we could be bet­ter. I mean, the stakes are high. We’re play­ing the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals against the best team in the league, the No1 seed, an MVP on their team. So I think ev­ery­body just wants to en­joy this time. Not a lot of peo­ple get this op­por­tu­nity, so we want to take ad­van­tage of it.”

Up­per ech­e­lon: Kevin Du­rant scored 37 points in the War­riors’ Game 1 win.

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