Golden State Warriors unleash Kevin Durant to give Houston Rockets a taste of their own medicine in Game 1

Jay Asser 19:23 15/05/2018
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Kevin Durant dropped 37 points in the Warriors' Game 1 win.

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 one-on-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.”

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