After taking only eight shots in the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to the Clippers, Kevin Durant decided to remind everyone that he was Kevin Durant and scored 38 points on 14/23 shooting in Game 3. Then, after the Warriors dropped an opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 5, he decided to do so again, scoring 50 points in Game 6, including 38 in the first half, and they came away with the series win. He was unstoppable, and Golden State will need this version of Durant to get past the Rockets.
This isn’t to say the Warriors need Durant to shoot 26 times a night to win; with two other Hall of Fame-caliber scoring threats on the team, the actual quantity isn’t the matter in question. As Warriors columnist Marcus Thompson noted in an interview with The Big Lead, Durant had adopted a facilitator type of role after a late-season blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks. This role has its benefits for the team, as the Warriors are generally at their best when the ball is flying around the court, and Durant is a good passer whose mere presence opens up lanes to the hoop.
But the Warriors still dropped two games to the Clippers, both at home, and some of that is due to a lack of aggressiveness on Durant’s part. It will be paramount that Durant continues to be aggressive as the Warriors move forward. The Rockets have perfected isolation basketball, and will be relentless in their scoring output. Golden State won’t have trouble keeping up when Curry and Thompson are rolling, but there will be times they go cold. Durant can’t afford to sit back and continue to play facilitator when those lulls do happen.
The Warriors’ game-to-game success doesn’t ride on Durant’s play style, because they are still the Warriors and are prone to go nuclear at any moment. But in a best-of-7 series against a team designed to beat them, every shot matters, and many a deciding moment will likely ride on the team’s ability to get a bucket at the right opportunity. That’s why Durant, who can score from anywhere on anybody, joined the team, and neither he nor the Warriors can afford to watch him let those opportunities pass by in the name of playing the facilitator.