Warriors play like the champions they are

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This is what happens when a good team — well, the best team until proven differently, and it wasn’t proven Tuesday night — decides to pull up its socks, shut down the opposition and shut up a few critics.

Decides to play with the skill, passion and verve — and arrogance — of a champion.

It stumbles around for a minute or two, then locks in on the task at hand, showing everyone, most of all the other team that, hey guys, we’ve only been teasing the last month or so. The coach said this one is important. So let’s take his advice to heart.

You were worried about the Warriors? Relax. “The guys were ready to play,” said Warrior coach Steve Kerr. Ready and willing, and able to crush the Denver Nuggets, 116-99, to all but keep the Nuggets from the NBA Western Conference title the Warriors will regain.

They’ve been playing with a vengeance the last few games, physical and verbal, drawing technicals, getting ejections — Tuesday night it was Kevin Durant in the third quarter after some brilliant play and caustic words. Sunday night it was DeMarcus Cousins, bounced in the second quarter of the rout of Charlotte for a flagrant foul 2.

And then news came down from on high, NBA headquarters in New York, that for their sarcasm and complaints of some egregious calls in that one-point overtime loss at Minnesota on March 29, the league got into the bank accounts of Durant, Steph Curry and, yes, Draymond Green.

But the only real worry is that Durant and Green, who each now have 15 T’s for the season, will be assessed a 16th and be suspended. Which, being the veterans they are, is unlikely to happen. And when Kerr was asked if he thought the officials would hold a grudge, he doubted it.

What you shouldn’t doubt is the way the Warriors dominated this game. They took to heart the frequent reminders from Kerr to protect the ball and play defense, both accomplished after a ragged start, which the coach said was caused by the Warriors being too hyped.

The Warriors kept the Nuggets to 37.5 percent (the Dubs shot 54.3 percent). The Warriors had 55 rebounds (Denver 40). The only negative was that the Warriors had 23 turnovers (Denver 15).

It was 59-43 at the half, the second quarter ending with a resounding Durant dunk that excited his teammates as much as it did the usual sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Durant had 17 points, Cousins 28, Curry 17 and Klay Thompson 13. Durant was ejected with 8:21 to go in a third quarter that was getting a bit out of hand. Kevin didn’t like the way he had been muscled and let the officials — and spectators within hearing distance — know as much.

“I thought he deserved the first technical,” said Kerr, “but I didn’t think he deserved the second one. I was very surprised.”

Presumably Durant was very agitated, but he left the building before anyone other than his teammates could find out.

Pre-game, Kerr was in high praise of Durant, who he said was “one of five guys who can put up huge numbers,” but also understands the game so well he is willing to pass, rebound and play defense as well as take shots.

“He’s one of the guys who can score 40, 50, whatever,” Kerr pointed out about Durant. “Kevin knows. It’s an incredible luxury to have not only that talent but someone willing to do whatever is best for his teammates.”

Getting ejected wasn’t what was best, but sometimes a person has to take a stand.

Curry just took his usual variety of shots, and his 3-pointer with 7:22 left gave him five or more 3s in a career-best nine straight games. Curry now has 16,236 points, moving him ahead of Chris Mullin (16,235) on the Warriors’ all-time list.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” said Curry, “but it’s a very special night understanding what Chris Mullin was able to do in a Warriors uniform. A pretty cool moment.”

That for a guy and a team that were quite hot — Kevin Durant by whatever definition you choose.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Is it a Final Four without Duke? It is with Izzo | Main | For Oakland, it’s players against players, not payroll against payroll »