As the final buzzer blared in Oracle Arena on May 30, 2016, the sea of gold that surrounds the 94-by-50-foot NBA hardwood floor erupted into a deafening celebration of triumph.
The Warriors had just completed — at the time — the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history and advanced to their second consecutive NBA Finals. All at the expense of Oklahoma City’s darling, Kevin Durant.
That was the last time Durant played a postseason game in Oakland. And that was the last memory of playoff basketball that Durant can recall.
But on Sunday, Durant looks to turn the page on his playoff past and create a new narrative for his postseason career. And the same sea of gold that hurled insults his way only 10 and a half months ago, will instead stand behind him with unwavering support.
Durant said after Saturday morning Warriors practice:
“Well they’ve been cheering for me all season, cheering for us all season I’ve been a part of the team. … I’m excited to get in the playoffs, it’s a great opportunity.”
When asked what it would mean to play in front of a rowdy Oracle arena, Durant said:
“I’m excited to play in front of our crowd and we’ve worked all season to, you know, start off at home. So hopefully it’s a good one.”
Three games back from a left knee injury that left him sidelined for more than five weeks, Durant will see his first opportunity back in the postseason against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday at 12:30 p.m. A team the Dubs have owned over the past three seasons.
In three games against Portland this season, Durant has averaged a team-high 29.3 points. But he said he isn’t looking past a Trail Blazers team that boasted 17-6 record in their past 23 regular season games, and added a premier center in Jusuf Nurkic:
“You know who Damian Lillard is, you know who C.J. McCollum is, you know who Nurkic is. You kind of depend on that, but also know that they run some different stuff and they work well, they’re a different team together as far as their new center.”
Considering the decision to come to Golden State — and the scrutiny and flak that accompanied it — many believe that this is a championship or bust season for the Durant that the Warriors, which Durant has seemed to embrace:
“It’s not about me. It’s about the whole group. You know, if one player doesn’t win a championship, one player doesn’t lose a championship. You do it as a group. And I’m excited to go through it with this group, hopefully we get there.”