Durant returns to form in Warriors season finale

No need to worry guys, Kevin Durant looks like he’s OK.

In his first two games back, Durant looked a little rusty with his shot. Though he shot 12-of-26 from the field, he was 0-of-9 from long distance and didn’t look too interested in scoring.

But that final piece of his game looked to be back Wednesday as he took control early, scoring 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting and leading the Warriors to a 109-94 victory over the Lakers Wednesday.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Durant starting to hit his jumper was just a foregone conclusion, Steve Kerr said:

“I mean it was nice, but definitely no relief. We knew it was just a matter of time.”

And his 3-point shot returned, as he hit 5-of-7 behind the arc. With the return of his 3-point shot, Durant looks to be basically all the way back now, which is exactly the way the Warriors (67-15) planned it when they had him return three games before the playoffs.

But Durant still wasn’t satisfied with his performance:

“I missed two open ones though. I made five, that’s better than last game. But I feel like I can go to another level.”

Patrick McCaw saw a good deal of court time with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala resting, both with and without the starters and made the absolute most of the last regular season game of his rookie campaign.

McCaw finished with 13 points on some especially bouncy dunks. He also thoroughly outplayed second-overall pick Brandon Ingram, with whom he matched up on more than a few possessions. Ingram scored just 11 points for the Lakers (26-56) on 5-of-16 shooting with five turnovers.

Damian Jones also got his first extended run in a Warriors uniform, playing 19 minutes after spending almost the entire season in the D-League. Though the rookie didn’t do much scoring (4 points), he showed off his rebounding ability grabbing seven boards, and generally looked very good switching onto guards on the perimeter — aside from a rough stretch in the fourth, when Kerr called a timeout specifically to chew him out.

Most importantly, the Warriors escaped the last game of the season without any injuries, aside from Zaza Pachulia leaving the game for a bit, but he would return later so all signs point to him being fine.

Avoiding injuries, aside from getting Durant back in rhythm, was the main goal.

Kerr is very confident in where his team is going into the playoffs:

“I think we’re in great shape, other than Matt Barnes’ injury. I really like the position we’re in going into the playoffs. These last few games have been ragged but that’s kind of to be expected.”

The way this season ended was drastically different than a year ago, with the Warriors fighting for every win last season. While it may not have been physically taxing — although one could argue that it definitely was — it was mentally draining for the team.

Golden State didn’t have the luxury of relaxing the last couple of games and get their heads right for the playoffs because every night was the same grind, trying to add another win to their historic mark.

And it showed. Over their last eight games they had two overtime games and three more decided by six points or less. This season they’ve had one of their last eight games decided by single digits.

Stephen Curry said that the mindset has been different this year:

“I think we’ve had a mature mentality getting through the season, and understanding the different pockets and challenges that an 82-game schedule brings.”

We’ll see how that affects the team late in the playoffs, if and when they get there, but it definitely can’t hurt.

Up Next

Round one of the NBA Playoffs starts this weekend and the Warriors have drawn the Sunday game. They’ll take on the eight-seeded Trailblazers in the early game at 12:30 p.m. They’ll have a regular game time Wednesday when Game 2 will be at Oracle at 7:30 p.m.

Notes

Matt Barnes is considered doubtful for the first game of the playoffs with his ankle sprain. Without him look for McCaw to pick up a few extra minutes at small forward, but Barnes could be back by Game 2. … The Warriors racked up 43 points in the first quarter, which is their 19th 40-point quarter on the season. … Curry finished the season leading the league in plus-minus as he was a plus-1015 on the season. He also finished the year with 1999 points, falling just shy of the 2k point club.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.