Saturday night reminded us of the simple fact that makes the Golden State Warriors so absurd. Last year, they won 73 games. This past offseason, they replaced one of their starters (Harrison Barnes) with the second-best basketball player on the planet (Kevin Durant).
Just think about how ridiculous that is for a minute. The greatest regular-season basketball team of all-time swapped out a solid but ultimately not crucial player for someone who is going to end up in the Hall of Fame. It’s kind of funny, and while the Warriors weren’t as successful during the 2016-17 regular season as they were last year, we’re seeing signs of the fully-formed basketball machine that they can be now that the playoffs are in high gear.
Take Game 3 of Golden State’s series against Utah. The Warriors looked off all game. Steph Curry had 23 points on a poor shooting night. Draymond Green had nine points, and Klay Thompson had a whole six.
Durant had 35 on 15-for-26 shooting. The Warriors won, 102-91, to move one game away from making the conference finals. He was a killer, doing things that the Jazz just could not respond to because when Durant is locked in, he’s unstoppable.
Durant, when he is in this zone, is extremely good at being cold and ruthless. He did this with essentially everyone in the arena on Saturday – of course, he systematically dismantled the Jazz, but he also wasn’t accepting any nonsense from the team’s mascot. At one point in the fourth quarter, it ran onto the court, so Durant didn’t mince his words.
His iciness extended far beyond this. Here was Durant interacting with a Jazz fan who was trying to talk smack.
And here is Durant responding to a shove by Rudy Gobert with an even stronger shove of his own, which earned him a flagrant and a technical foul.
Gobert went to the line and missed both of his free throws, which drew this out of Durant and Green.
Lastly, there was the dagger, the moment when Durant buried the Jazz and its fans for the night. He knocked down a jumper that had no business going in – he was swarmed by Gordon Hayward and threw up a prayer that only went in because he banked it off the backboard. After, Durant did what has become basketball’s symbol of “I’m just too good and no one can stop me” when he shrugged.
Durant is on a mission to get his first ring. So far, the Warriors have looked unstoppable. In front of an aggressive crowd in Salt Lake City, he reminded everyone what makes Golden State so good.
Once he did that, he took a few minutes to show the Jazz, their players, their mascot, and their fans some serious disrespect.