While Curry began rehabbing his sprained right ankle, fellow Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green was given the night off against the Charlotte Hornets to rest a sore right shoulder. This gave Durant the opportunity to flex his complete array of skills without deferring to either of Golden State’s top two playmakers. The results were better than expected: Durant was all the impetus Golden State needed to roll out of bed for a 101-87 victory.
Fresh off a call-up from the Warriors’ G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Calif., Quinn Cook got the start in Curry’s place, adding only eight points (with three rebounds and three assists). Jordan Bell, who started in place of Green, was scoreless in 22 minutes. In the absence of all that firepower, Durant put the team on his back, scoring 16 points in the first quarter.
This is Kevin Durant’s most 1st-quarter points in any game since joining the Warriors pic.twitter.com/Y50TZEi3Ip
— Gianina (@giaplusnina) December 7, 2017
Klay Thompson chipped in a quotidian 22 points, which was within his season average’s margin of error. Nick Young was the only other Warriors starter to score in double figures.
However, instead of getting selfish and trying to reclaim his title as the NBA’s most gifted scorer in one night, Durant took on both Green and Curry’s responsibilities. He scored, distributed, cleaned the glass and protected the rim en route to his second triple-double as a Warrior.
By closing time, Durant had recorded a Russell Westbrook-like line of 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, only without the grotesque shooting percentages and exorbitant number of turnovers. Durant only turned it over three times in 36 minutes. Charlotte never came within striking distance, because Durant was so masterful.
KD messed around against the Hornets
35 pts I 11 boards I 10 dimes pic.twitter.com/FwqyWlfloI
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 7, 2017
With Curry sidelined, Warriors coach Steve Kerr allowed Peak Durant to be unleashed. In Oklahoma City, Durant was rightfully the four-time scoring champion, primarily featuring his silky scoring arsenal. In Golden State, he’s opened up his game, but has only played three games without Curry in the lineup. Over the next few weeks, Peak Durant should make more regular appearances.
Peak Durant slashes, shoots better than ever from 3-point range, drops dimes and throws lobs. He’s a scary shot-blocker, he directs off-ball action, and hollers out adjustments on the fly. He’s a sight to see, though we might see a bit less of him if Green returns on the second night of the Warriors’ road-trip-closing back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. With the versatile Green, Bell, and 6-foot-7 second-year guard Patrick McCaw, who didn’t play Wednesday after entering the league’s concussion protocol, the Warriors could present a new, intriguing Rubik’s Cube of a lineup for opposing teams to solve until Curry is healthy.
Prior to Wednesday’s Hornets tip-off, Curry noted that his absence could wind up making the Warriors a better team in the long run. To watch Durant run wild on Wednesday night was to think the two-time MVP might have been onto something … and to think that Durant’s minuscule MVP odds might get a serious boost if he continues dominating in every aspect of the game like this.