• Gabe Bottazzi

Durant Displays Utter Dominance Against The Clippers

The two time defending champion Golden State Warriors went into the playoffs with the number one overall seed in the Western Conference. Many of the NBA writers and fans alike affirm that the Warriors are the favorites to win it all once again. With superstar players of the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, Golden State has unlimited firepower with an offensive arsenal that is unmatched by any other team in the league. In the first round they played the gritty Los Angeles Clippers, who had no All Star player on their roster. Coached by the respected Doc Rivers, the Clippers fought their way into the postseason with an assortment of committed role players that have bought into the system. In game 1, Golden State made quick work of the Clippers, finessing their way to a 17-point home victory. During their win, Kevin Durant got into it with the Clipper’s fiery defensive specialist Patrick Beverley, as they both got ejected after receiving technical fouls earlier in the game. The tension and physicality displayed by Durant and Beverley foreshadowed how the remainder of the series would be played in terms of the grittiness and roughness of the play on the court. Game 2 of the series took place in Oakland where the Warriors showcased their offensive prowess, knocking down a wide range of perimeter shots while playing unselfishly to storm out to a huge lead. At one point in the game, Golden State was up by a staggering 31 points. In the third quarter, the game already looked won, as it seemed the Warriors were going to cruise the easy victory. This is where the most unpredictable thing transpired. Slowly but surely the Los Angeles Clippers were creeping back into the game, as the large deficit they were facing slowly diminished.

Suddenly, it was a 4-point game with a few minutes remaining. The Warriors were in shock and couldn’t blame anybody but themselves as they let there foots off the gas pedal and let their lead slip away. Led by the “walking bucket” Lou Williams scoring 36 points off the bench, the Clippers somehow managed to tie the game with a minute remaining. This is when newly acquired rookie guard Landry Shamet was able to get an open look for a three pointer and drilled it to give Los Angeles its first lead of the game. The Warriors looked to Stephen Curry for a three pointer to send it into overtime, but unfortunately he missed it. In the most unexpected fashion, the Clippers won the game to tie the series at 1-1. NBA history was made by Los Angeles after capping off the greatest comeback in the history of the NBA playoffs. There was no excuse for the monumental collapse of the Warriors, but a contributing factor could be their best player Kevin Durant only taking 8 shots in the contest. The next game took place in Los Angeles for a pivotal game 3. The Warriors played with a chip on their shoulder and responded with a vengeance after their devastating loss last game to garner the 27-point victory with Durant dropping 38 points on an impressive 60% shooting, giving Golden State a 2-1 series lead. Beverley and KD continued to go out it despite the lopsidedness of the game as the excessive physicality did not seem to faze Durant who maintained composure throughout.

In game 4, the Clippers put up more of a fight in order to keep within striking distance, as their rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went off for a career high 25-point outburst. However, his effort wasn’t enough as Durant and Klay combined for 65 points to keep Los Angeles at bay as Golden State won by 8 points to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. In Game 5, the Warriors had a chance to close out the series in Oracle Arena in front of their home fans. In the beginning stages, it seemed promising that the Warriors would carry out the deed to finish off the scrappy Clippers after amassing 41 points at the end of the first quarter. Despite the hot start by the Warriors, the Clippers weathered the storm and began to seize control of the contest. Led by their premiere bench performers, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, Los Angeles showcased resilience and was able to grind their way to a surprising 8-point victory to force a game 6 back at Staples Center. Lou Williams went on a tear, dropping 33 points and dishing out 10 assists, as the Warriors had no answer for him. In the loss, Kevin Durant dazzled, pouring in 45 points on 54% shooting. He seemed almost automatic at times with the effortless fashion in which he was earning his points. Nonetheless, Golden State returned back to hostile territory to try again to finish out the series in Los Angeles for Game 6.

Knowing what was at stake, KD and the Warriors proved that they were through with this back and forth series and halted the Clipper’s hopes of forcing a Game 7. From start to finish, Golden State dominated in every facet of the game, firing from all cylinders as they tallied an astonishing 72 points in the first half. The second half shared a similar narrative as KD went on an offensive surge and there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it. The Clippers through out every one of their best defenders at Durant, including Beverley, but he was a man on a mission on this particular night. What is so impressive about the way in which Durant plays is he is almost seven feet tall, yet he competes similar to how a shooting guard would. He has a great handle of the ball with a reliable crossover and is able to create a shot for himself at his own will. When he decides to shoot the ball, the fact that he is normally taller than his defender is something he certainly utilizes to his advantage as a shot contest will not deter him from getting a clean look at the basket. KD is a very efficient scorer, who has can shoot from pretty much anywhere on the hardwood at an excellent rate. This was very evident in Game 6 of this series where Kevin Durant scored a playoff career-high 50 points on 58 percent shooting. His offensive onslaught included making 6 three pointers as well as making 14 of his 15 free throw attempts. He was in a zone and was not rattled by any of the defensive assignments that were placed upon him as Golden State cruised to 19-point victory over Los Angeles to advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After his remarkable performance, many writers and fans have gone to start to believe that Durant might be the best player in basketball. For the last nine years, it was cemented that LeBron James was hands down the undisputed “King” of the NBA after terrorizing the Eastern Conference to make it to eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances and winning three NBA Championships along the way. While this has been the case, LeBron decided this season to take his talents to the Western Conference and join the illustrious Los Angeles Lakers and all the fame and glory associated with the team’s coveted history. To the dismay of many of his fans and the NBA as a whole, the Lakers underwhelmed this year as a result of LeBron missing a significant amount of time due to a badly timed groin injury. When he returned 20 games later, LeBron was not the same out there on the court, showing signs of weakness, as it was awfully apparent on the defensive side of the floor where it looked as though he took plays off. The Lakers were in the race to obtain a playoff spot, but were unable to play a consistent level of basketball and missed the postseason once again. These NBA playoffs is the first time in over 15 years in which LeBron has been absent as his rival Kevin Durant is relishing in the opportunities to show the world that he has immensely closed the gap between him and LeBron for the title as the world’s best basketball player. Durant is looking to capture his third straight title and Finals MVP, so if he is able accomplish this feat, it makes his argument that much greater that he has cemented his status as a legendary NBA performer and the face of the league.

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