Kevin Durant, right, returned Saturday and looked fine. So, there's no reason for him or Stephen Curry, left, to be overextended in the final games of the regular season. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Kevin Durant, right, returned Saturday and looked fine. So, there's no reason for him or Stephen Curry, left, to be overextended in the final games of the regular season. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Durant, Warriors take big step but need to tread lightly

In his first game in 39 days on Saturday night, Kevin Durant blew past a New Orleans Pelicans’ defender, swooped to the hoop and threw down a thunderous reverse dunk.

Off his left foot, people. The same sprained left foot that had sidelined him and the Warriors’ hopes for another NBA championship. On the first play of the game, no less.

Call the sequence one small step for Durant, one giant leap for the Warriors.

“It felt normal again,” Durant said afterward. “I’m a basketball player. I love playing basketball; that’s my favorite thing to do. So to feel like I’m part of the team, to feel like I’m a part of this energy that we have, it feels great.”

See, that’s the tricky part.

As we witnessed last year, when Stephen Curry and his wobbly left foot weren’t right for practically the entire postseason, stuff happens and not all of it is good. When Mr. Big Shot went down, that changed everything. Now it’s up to coach Steve Kerr to make sure Curry, Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson don’t talk their way into another injury. None should play more than 20-something minutes in the final two regular-season games.

Even without Durant, the Warriors have played some of their best ball of the season. They’re on one of those serious rolls of theirs, 14 wins in a row. Even though a few guys are sure to play reduced minutes if they play at all, the dates with the Utah Jazz and team formerly known as the Los Angeles Lakers are very winnable. Both are at home.

Go fo’, fo’, fo’, (fo’) in the playoffs, as the late, great Moses Malone once said, and you know what that means, right? Thirty-two W’s in a row, one short of the Association record.

Far-fetched? Probably. But you get the point. Only the Warriors can beat the Warriors right now.

THREE FOR THE SHOW: Now that Russell Westbrook is certain to average a triple-double this season — would he have it any other way? — his Most Valuable Player campaign has gained lots of traction.

While Westbrook’s historic achievement cannot be ignored, the triple-double remains one of the most contrived statistics in all of sports. The MVP Award also is about wins and losses, people, and the Oklahoma City Thunder have no better than the 10th-best record in the NBA at the moment. Would they be that much worse without one guy to dominate the ball all the time?

The real MVP will be determined in the Western Conference playoffs. That’s when Team Westbrook will square off against James Harden’s Houston Rockets in a matchup of the third and sixth seeds.

Unless the San Antonio Spurs upset the Warriors en route to the NBA Finals, that is, in which case Kawhi Leonard probably would be the pick here.

JUST SAYIN’: Balls gets the decision not to have NHL players take part in the 2018 Olympics, what with the disjointed regular season and threat of injuries. But unless you live in their skates and especially in Canada, you can’t begin to know how much those games really
mean.

YOUR TURN:
“The problem with the Giants is that the entirety of their sales pitch is based upon being winners. As I watch them get lit up, it makes me wonder what teams who have no chance at all use to sell tickets: come out and enjoy baseball for the sake of the game? That always worked for me as a child, but I think that the attitude of San Francisco is leading to disaster, not only with baseball and football but also
socioeconomically.” — Thomas Burgess, Noe Valley

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