We can thank Kevin Durant for making the NBA Finals interesting.
We can also dub him Drama Killer 2018.
Durant’s Golden State Warriors are about to secure a repeat with a ho-humness normally reserved for people like Tiger, Michael Jordan and Mike Tyson in his prime.
At least KD provided us with the seminal moment of the 2018 playoffs. Thanks to him, the Warriors are up 3-0 in this best-of-seven series against the LeBron-heavy Cleveland Cavaliers. The Texas ex was stone cold with 43 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Included in his latest barrage was a long-distance pull-up 3-pointer that effectively ended any hopes of a seven-game series.
Before Game 3, the 29-year-old Durant had never made more than one shot from at least 30 feet in one game. On Wednesday night, four of his six 3s came from 30 and beyond. It was one of the greatest shooting exhibitions in NBA Finals history, right there with Scott Wedman’s 11-for-11 performance in Boston’s Memorial Day Massacre of the Lakers in 1985, Jordan’s six first-half 3-pointers and shoulder shrug against Portland in 1992, and Ray Allen’s seven first-half triples in 2010 for Miami against the Lakers.
Durant didn’t really celebrate after he broke Cleveland’s heart for the second straight year with a Game 3 triple. He gave his teammates that all too familiar “these-busters-can’t-stop-me” stare that’s normally reserved for all-time greats who are having one of those nights.
“He’s an assassin,” said James, another all-time great.
Golden State also got great production from its non-All-Stars, but it was its tallest superstar pushing the franchise one step closer to a fourth title. Thirty minutes after he laid waste to the Cavs, Durant still wore his game face with his monogrammed KD pullover. When asked if his 3-point dagger reminded him of last season’s shot from similar range, he declined to go nostalgic.
“It’s a different game, different season,” he said. “Everything’s just different. But I’m not done playing basketball yet, so I don’t really look at these as defining moments. I don’t want to downplay anything, but I don’t want to act like this is the end of the road.”
This isn’t the smiling, easygoing Durant who spent nine months at Texas nor the Durant who wept openly while thanking his mom during his 2014 MVP acceptance speech. There’s an edge to him now, some of it a result of the criticism he received when he divorced All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder after that team blew a 3-1 series lead over Golden State in the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
Durant is still bothered by the perception that he gravy-trained a title on a Warriors team that was already built to win multiple championships. But Wednesday night confirmed what many of us already knew: He’s one of the most unguardable players in the Association. When he’s right, it all goes wrong for the opposition. On a night when Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined to go 7-for-27 from the field, Durant did the heavy lifting and the Warriors called up their other pieces to take up the remaining slack.
“He gave me and Steph a night off,” Thompson said.
The Warriors don’t win Game 3 without Durant. We’d be looking at a 2-1 series, with the Cavs feeling good going into Game 4. But that’s not reality.
“It’s tough because that’s what you pray for,” said Cleveland’s J.R. Smith. “When (Curry and Thompson) are missing like that and we’re playing great defense and getting offensive rebounds and loose balls … then you have a 7-foot 2-guard out there cooking, it’s tough.”
The only remaining dramas in this series are whether the Warriors can sweep on Friday and whether Durant can surge past Curry to win a second straight Finals MVP award.
History remembers the winners, and Durant will be more fully appreciated in future generations when the talk will be more about his skill set than the reasons he left Oklahoma City. The same can be said for James, who did bring a championship to Cleveland after he brought his talents back from South Beach, though it’s obvious he will be courting offers from younger, talented ballclubs in the offseason.
As for KD, he has found his happy place.
Gravy train? Nah, Durant just took the wheel.
Warriors at Cavaliers, 8 p.m., ABC