OAKLAND — With 5:21 to go in Saturday’s Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors’ first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Durant drove home a dunk. It was one of two for him on the night, with each time he approached the rim getting a progressively louder reception from the Oracle Arena crowd. This one, though, illiceted a reaction from Durant himself.
After throwing down the thunderous tomahawk dunk over what seemed to be the entire Clippers back court, Durant mouthed, “Whew, my God.” On his next trip down the court, Durant went over defensive pest Patrick Beverley for a lay-up, but drew a foul as Beverley undercut him going to the hoop. The two yapped at each other under the rim and had be separated. Less than a minute later, both men would be thrown out.
Beverley, known for getting under the skin of his opponents, baited Durant into two technical fouls. With five more, he would earn a one-game suspension from the NBA. Trash talking is part of Beverley’s game, and it set the tone for a series that marked the first time since 2014 — in the midst of a brief, but heated rivalry — that two franchises have met in the playoffs.
“We took the bait, he took the bait, and that’s two technicals,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said. “You get seven technicals. Your seventh one is a suspension in the playoffs, whether you play four playoff games or 24, seven is the magic number. He’s got four to play with, after one game, but that’s what Beverly does.”
Over the days leading into the first-round series with the Clippers, Kerr and his staff addressed Beverley’s pugnacious trash talking. Asked pregame why he so easily gets under opponents’ skin, Doc Rivers said, “He’s got good material.”
“He’s a hell of a defender, he plays hard, we have a lot of respect for him, but you cannot take the bait,” Kerr said. “That’s a bad trade for us. Clippers have made a lot of good trades this year, and that was maybe their best.”
Beverley was in the ears of most Warriors over the course of the night, but while his material is typically good enough to get his opponents off their games — as evidenced by his bouts with Russell Westbrook, Lonzo Ball and Blake Griffin — Golden State gave as good as it got.
As Stephen Curry continued his barrage of eight 3-pointers — passing Ray Allen for the NBA career postseason 3-point record — even he got into the mix with Beverley. As he tried to follow up what was a made lay-up by Durant in the third quarter with a would-be tip-in dunk, he landed on Beverley’s back. Beverley sat on the baseline and stared daggers at Curry as the 31-year old Warriors guard simply walked away.
Beverley was chosen to guard Durant because of his quickness and range, rather than having him guard Stephen Curry, who went off for 38 points on 8-of-12 from 3-point range.
“We thought that Pat could take away Durant’s dribble attacks, and he did that,” Rivers said. You know, because with Durants — the LeBrons of the world do, when you put their same size guy on him now they have every advantage. They can beat you off the dribble, they still score in the post anyway. We do that a lot. We put a smaller guy just to take away the dribble attacks because Durant is so good off the dribble.”
The two also had previous history. When Beverley was with the Houston Rockets in 2016, he and Durant had a chippy exchange. Durant was game.
“I’ve been playing against Pat Beverley since he was at Arkansas so I kind of know what he brings,” Durant said. “He’s a Chicago kid, grew up and played in the Chicago area, so those dudes play with a different type of grit, so I can appreciate that about Pat.
“You know what he’s going to bring to the table, just physicality, the mucking up the game a little bit with his physicality, his talking, everything. That’s what he brings to each team he plays on. That’s his identity, and they support him with the Clippers. For me, I know that coming into the series. I thought it was fun tonight.”
During their under-the-basket confrontation with five minutes to go, which earned both men their first technicals, Durant grinned as he walked away from Beverley, and Green came over to address the situation.
“There’s always little games within the game,” said the Warriors’ own instigator, Draymond Green. “There’s always stuff going on, out there on the floor. Meanwhile, K was 8-for-16 for 23 points. That’s a pretty solid night at the office. That was good. I like to see people battle, and I love that.”
Nineteen seconds later, the two came together at mid-court, as Durant tried to poke a pass away from the Clippers guard. As Beverley, trying to get away from Durant’s pressure, lost the ball and fell to the floor out of bounds in front of the scorer’s table, Durant stood over him and glared, barking.
Beverley was less good-natured.
“I can’t say, I might get fined,” Beverley said, when asked about his thoughts regarding the exchanges and his ejection, before intimating that Durant pushed him out of bounds.
Beverly sprang up and began to return fire, before both players were ejected by referee Ed Malloy. Durant walked up the tunnel to high-fives from fans.
“The previous play, I got fouled on the lay-up and Pat came out of nowhere and blocked it,” Durant said. “It was just — not friendly, but just trash talk, you know, and it’s emotional play for him, so he’s going to show his intensity after that play, and I respected it, and I’m sure everybody on the court did. But it was the same play for me coming back on the other end where I had an opportunity to kind of bring some intensity to the arena, to the game, to my team, and I thought that was a perfect time for me to do so, without resulting in a technical foul.”
Both Durant and Rivers said that Malloy was just trying to maintain control of othe game.
“I guess he thought we was taking it too far,” Durant said. “I just thought it was one of those plays where I could show a little bit more emotion than I usually show.”
Asked whether he was concerned about hitting the playoff technical foul limit, Durant dismissed the possibility.
“Nah,” he said. “I can control myself.”
“I don’t think we even need to say anything now,” Kerr said. “We already talked about it for two days. It’s one of our keys: Don’t take the bait. We took it, so you just can’t do it. Sometimes, you have to feel it, before you follow through and execute on that. We’re going to have to be really solid.”