After a required blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers, where the Golden State Warriors assured all their fans that they were still several notches above the defending champions, it was almost necessary they would fall back to sleep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In years past, this type of first half effort, the turnovers, the lack of defense, and lazy focus, would require an A+ effort from their stars in order to squeeze out a close win. This season the story is playing out a little differently, and has made life a whole lot easier for these vaunted Warriors.
First, there was Zaza Pachulia who along with David West, was brought in to protect Stephen Curry and Draymond Green against the likes of the other goons in the league. As Russell Westbrook fell forward in another superb acting job that would make LeBron James squeal, it wasn’t Pachulia’s contact but his utter lack of disbelief at Westbrook’s acting job in his face while standing over him Ali-style that put a stamp on the night. After the game, Westbrook said he’d Zaza back but perhaps the more peculiar moment was that none of his teammates got in Zaza’s way as he stared him down.
The halftime score was knotted at 56 and followed a familiar note. The result was foregone, the process is just a bit different and easy this season around. And against his old teammates, and the new head of attack for the Warriors, Kevin Durant completely took over in a fantastic 3rd quarter where he made contested jumper after contested jumper, emulating running mate Stephen Curry in his dribble pullup 3s and then himself with the putback dunks. By the time the 37-point quarter was over, the game was finished, and we were well on our way to another Warriors 121-100 blowout. 40 points on 16 shots in total, his best effort in a Golden State uniform and an unparalleled level of consistent greatness slowly forming.
The circus around this KD-Russ event has toned down quite a bit. As the Thunder looked as helpless as ever on both offense and defense, where there was no spacing nor talent to handle the Warriors, Durant’s choice to leave became more and more transparent. With the Warriors, Durant’s explosion put a team away. With the Thunder, his explosions were necessary to compete at the highest level. Same went for Curry the last two years.
As we start to watch this budding rivalry of last year subside into oblivion, the beginnings of what the Warriors have and are becoming is clear. Klay Thompson was bad, Curry was mediocre, and Draymond Green was not close to his best. And it took half a quarter to put away a team led by Russell Westbrook. The margin of error is enormous for the Warriors, even against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers. And as they refine their craft in the doldrums of the NBA season, we get to enjoy some of the flashes like the one Durant showed tonight. And start to truly understand what he and the rest of his teammates imagined when they sat together in the Hamptons and made the decision that shook the NBA landscape.