OAKLAND — Whatever doubt that might’ve remained about Kevin Durant’s recovery dissipated during the first half of the Golden State Warriors’ season finale on Wednesday.
Durant rolled to 24 points before halftime, while hitting 4-for-5 3-pointers, proving there was no rust from his 19-game absence remaining as his team heads into the playoffs.
There was never any doubt Durant’s shot would return to form, so there was no sense of relief when it did. But, by burying the Los Angeles Lakers with a flurry of long balls early, all that was left for the Warriors was a good deal of smiling and waiting for the final minutes of the season to wind down.
“I feel like I could take it to another level,” Durant said, downplaying his impact on Golden State’s 109-94 takedown of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I’m not worried about this being my tune-up game.”
With Golden State carrying a 23-point lead into the fourth quarter, there was nothing left for the stars of the team to accomplish with a first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers looming.
That was a part of a larger plan for preservation by Steve Kerr. In addition to holding a curtailed shootaround, each of the regular contributors played 28 minutes or fewer — ensuring they’ll be well rested for the games that matter.
There are no more adjustment periods. Creating subplots for added motivation are now superfluous. The Warriors are precisely where they thought they’d be at this date on the schedule: Priming themselves for a long postseason run after withstanding the grind of an 82-game season.
“We’ve been there before. We’ve succeeded and come up short: [Learned] how important every possession is, in that regard,” said Stephen Curry after scoring 20 points and throwing eight assists. “We just gotta go out and do it now.”
The Warriors will continue to ease into the long process ahead by limiting their activity to film work today before returning to the court on Friday ahead of their Sunday showdown.
“We’re on a different mission now and I think everyone knows what that mission is,” Klay Thompson said.
The Warriors’ self-assurance was on full display as the season came to an end — with Curry telling the crowd at Oracle Arena after the game that he looks forward to playing “the next two-and-a-half months.” But, those are the things you can easily get away with when you’re the first team in league history to win at least 67 games for three-straight yearsGolden State WarriorsKevin DurantLos Angeles LakersStephen CurrySteve Kerr