Exactly one year ago, Kevin Durant walked out of Capital One Arena with a knee injury, unsure if he would play another game in the season. It derailed a homecoming for the Washington D.C. native, and it put the Warriors’ championship hopes in jeopardy.
Stephen Curry said:
“Him going down last year put everybody on alert.”
It turned out all right. Durant came back in time to win his championship. And on Wednesday night, he had a proper homecoming in front of the D.C. fans, putting up 32 points leading Golden State to a 109-101 win.
The difference was another third quarter domination. Carrying a two-point lead into halftime, the Warriors (48-14) outscored the Wizards (36-26) 27-14 in the third quarter, holding Washington to 29 percent shooting. A quick five-point spurt highlighted the run. Out of a timeout, Draymond Green and Durant connected on a backdoor play for a dunk. Then, Curry stole the inbound pass and nailed a corner three to put the Warriors ahead by double digits. The Warriors took a 85-70 lead into the fourth quarter.
Head coach Steve Kerr joked it was his fiery halftime, profanity-filled speeches that lead to the Warriors’ frequent third quarter runs. In reality, though, it’s just something about the players:
“It’s not about adjustments. It’s about our guys just wanting to make a push coming out of the break. I can’t really explain it.”
Washington cut the lead to six with two-and-half minutes left in regulation, but Durant answered with four quick points — a layup and a dunk — to put the game out of reach.
Kerr said that Durant should be in the MVP conversation, and joked with him after the game:
“I just told him tonight was a little better than last year. He was great. He’s been fantastic since the break. Four straight games where he’s just monstrous offensively, active defensively. I thought he was tremendous tonight.”
Durant had a solid morning routine, he said, and he felt confident going into the game:
“My teammates did a great job of running the offense, finding the open guy and I was able to knock down some shots.”
The first half was a tale of two quarters. The Warriors started off hot, opening 5-of-8 from 3-point range and playing fast and loose offensively, assisting on 10 of their first 11 baskets. Durant had 16 points in the first quarter as the Warriors built a 15-point lead.
They nearly gave it all back in the second quarter. With the “Hamptons 5” lineup on the court, the Warriors allowed the Wizards to go on a 10-0 run and take a brief lead. Otto Porter Jr. could not miss in the first half, putting up 18 points and four 3-pointers to help the Wizards claw within two at halftime.
However, the Warriors clamped down the rest of the way.
The Wizards were missing John Wall to injury, but it seemed like they were missing Bradley Beal, too. Beal went scoreless for the entire first half and the first six minutes of the third quarter, finally connecting on a 3-pointer at the 5:13 mark to break an 0-for-9 slump.
Beal was held in check with just 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting. He was bottled up by Klay Thompson, who stuck with the Wizards’ star all night. Thompson said:
“We realize they played last night, so they may not have the fresh legs like they usually do. Just try to make it tough like any other great scorer in this league. Take away their space and make someone else beat you.”
By putting their best defender on Beal and sending multiple bodies at him, the Warriors made players like Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. beat them. Both Porter and Oubre had nice games, but the Wizards won’t win many games with them as their leading scorers. Overall, the Warriors held the Wizards to 40 percent shooting.
Kerr lauded Thompson’s efforts defensively:
“We assign Klay with the most difficult job night after night and he’s had a hell of a week. We’re able to count on Klay night after night. He’s just a machine.”
The Warriors have now won four straight and seven of their last eight, though they haven’t had a lengthy win streak since an 11-game ride last November and December. With a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, Curry senses that this could be the start of something:
“We’ve got to stay in the moment, but we haven’t run off a long winning streak in a while, so that would be a nice feeling going into the playoffs, if we can build that type of momentum.”
The Warriors wrap up a three-game road trip when they face the Hawks (18-43) in Atlanta on Friday.
The Warriors are now 12-1 against the East this season. … Andre Iguodala had one of his best games of the year, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists … Durant passed Mitch Richmond on the all-time scoring list, putting him among the top 40 in league history in points. … On Tuesday, in lieu of a White House visit, the Warriors visited an African-American museum with local students.