Holding a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter in Game 3 against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals, it looked like the Golden State Warriors would have to really work to earn their seventh-straight playoff victory.
They did, and outscoring the home team Jazz to the tune of 30-21 in the final quarter, the Warriors moved to a 3-0 lead over the Jazz in the best-of-seven series.
And for the first time in the playoffs, Kevin Durant looked like the Kevin Durant we’ve grown to know over the years: the unstoppable offensive force that even the best defensive squad in the NBA couldn't limit.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had abysmal shooting nights, with the former going 6-for-20 from the floor for 23 points and the latter going just 1-for-9 for six points. Combined, the two sharpshooters went an embarrassingly-bad 3-for-15 from three. But, it didn't matter.
Durant stepped up and delivered a dominating performance, posting 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting along with 13 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal over 39 minutes.
He also hit several key shots down the stretch to guide his team to victory and came through in the clutch when his team needed him most.
With the win, not only is Golden State in the driver’s seat in the series, but they also made history.
No other team in NBA history who had lost Game 7 the year before has gotten off to a better playoff start the following season.
Thank Durant for that, as well. Now that he looks to be fully healthy, the rest of the NBA is in trouble.
KD became the first Warriors player to post at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in consecutive playoff games since 1972.
Due to the shooting struggles of the Splash Brothers, the Warriors got the job done in a different way in the victory, trusting Durant to shoulder the load on a number of isolation plays, thus slightly abandoning their patented team-ball style of play more than usual.
Game 4 will be on Monday night in Utah. With their backs against the wall, the Jazz will look to earn a victory for pride’s sake. But, as shown in Game 3, Durant singlehandedly led the team to victory when both Curry and Thompson struggled shooting. If Curry and Thompson are up to their usual standards of play, this series may very well be a sweep.
We were all waiting to see a definitive example of Durant’s impact on the team in a crucial situation, and that’s exactly what the superstar showed in Game 3.