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5 Clutch Points: Kevin Durant scorches Clippers in Game 6, yet another test awaits

Kevin Durant’s surgical night against the L.A. Clippers saw him score a career-high 50 points in a playoff game, enough to bury them in Game 6 after squandering a pivotal chance to do so at home in Game 5. The Golden State Warriors forward has been impossible to guard in the last four games, and he’s picked up the right momentum, now that another test awaits.

These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 6:

Kevin Durant’s monster night

The Warriors were coming off from squandering Durant’s 45-point performance in Game 5, as overconfidence overtook discipline — resulting in a 129-121 loss.

This wouldn’t happen again. Not for this Kevin Durant, who once again put his stamp in the game, scoring a career-high 50 points, including a scorching 38 points in the first half.

Yet no game is iconic without that one moment, and what better than to secure the feat over the pest that had been giving him headaches throughout the series — Patrick Beverley.

Durant caught a pass off the curl, took one momentum dribble to the left and rose up over Beverley, swishing the shot and drawing the harm, only to look toward his bench and smile, saying: “I’m nice, I’m nice” before reaching the 50-point mark with the ensuing free throw.

It’s that same maniacal confidence that has made him such a monster to play against throughout this first round series.

The Clippers had hoped to muck up Durant, but they had no answer for him in the last four games, as he got his way throughout the flow of the game.

Even Clippers coach Doc Rivers admittedly said so during his post-game presser: “We played just about everybody on him.”

The confidence was imminent from the start, as his clinical 38 points in the first half were a clean preview of what was to come. In his halftime interview, Durant was asked if he felt he could score at will. His response? A deadpan “yeah.”

Durant’s incandescent first half was no small feat, as he tied Charles Barkley for the second-most playoff points in a half in NBA history, second only to Sleepy Floyd’s 39.

Surely, if it is this version of Durant that shows up in the upcoming series with the Houston Rockets, the defending champions will be tough to stop.

DPOY Draymond: Activate

Kevin Durant wouldn’t be the only one to turn on the jets, as Draymond Green showed flashes of his Defensive Player of the Year feats from the get-go in this game.

Green inhaled nine rebounds in the first quarter and quickly set the pace for the Warriors, constantly racing up court and making the most of transition opportunities.

When he wasn’t finishing plays at the rim, the undersized forward was setting up his teammates with delicious deliveries, like this lead-in pass to the ageless Andre Iguodala for the right-hand slam.

Green finished the game with a strong triple-double of 16 points (8-of-14 from the field), 14 rebounds and 10 assists — adding four monster blocks for good measure in what was undoubtedly his best performance of these playoffs.

The Warriors are a perfect 27-0 all-time when Draymond gets a triple-double, and that streak lives on with a strong 19-point win to take the series.

Green did get a technical foul in the fourth quarter for jawing with the officials, but those become more bearable when he’s having an inspired performance like he did on Friday night.

Splash Bros down

The Splash Brothers had a run-in with injuries in Game 6, as Stephen Curry rolled his right ankle early in the first quarter after stepping on Landry Shamet’s foot, while Thompson turned his left one during an and-one play in the second half.

Curry was seen hobbled during the first quarter, despite remaining in the game until he went to the bench and consequently the locker room in the final minutes of the period.

The two-time MVP had a strong 24-point night, but his impact was clearly diminished by his inability to move laterally and make crisp cuts, which limited his potential to snipe from deep.

Thompson rolled his left ankle as JaMychal Green attempted to close out his driving angle to the basket.

Both players claimed they would be fine for Game 1 on Sunday against the Rockets, and so did head coach Steve Kerr in his post-game presser.

“Yeah, they were both banged up a little bit,” said Kerr after the game. “Hopefully they will be good to go on Sunday, but I don’t have any updates.”

Coaching adjustments: Livingston in, Bogut out

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers made perhaps the most important adjustment of the series, swapping his traditional center Ivica Zubac for the more-athletic JaMychal Green. The move worked soundly, as Green provided some much-needed outside shooting, all while keeping up with a faster Warriors lineup that thrived in transition.

However Steve Kerr had a card of his own, bringing in veteran Shaun Livingston for Andrew Bogut, going even smaller than his coaching counterpart.

The move itself was shocking, but media members knew something was up, considering Kerr declined to name his starting five in the pre-game press conference — most knew a move was coming.

The change was announced 30 minutes before tip-off, and most in tune with the Warriors rotations were left scratching their heads.

Livingston had only started in 22 of his 452 games with the Warriors and had never been in the same starting lineup with Stephen Curry, until Friday (h/t Anthony Slater of The Athletic) — something that drew some concern.

The 6-foot-7 veteran point man started at small forward, leaving the Splash Brothers untouched at their natural positions, while axing out a less-mobile Bogut, who had little success against a faster Clippers lineup.

The move wasn’t much about putting Livingston in as it was at taking Bogut out of the picture, who was clearly unfavored in this matchup. In a way, it gave Kerr the chance to give his veteran floor general a chance to start, in what could be his last go-around in the NBA.

Bench play: Ups and downs

The Warriors second and third unit combined for 28 points — not too shabby, considering there was garbage time to play at the end of this game. However 15 of them belonged to Andre Iguodala, who proved a stalwart on defense against a struggling Lou Williams, who at one point missed 11 straight attempts in a 3-of-21 shooting performance to forget.

Yet Golden State had carved up as much as a 26-point lead in the dying seconds of the third quarter after an Iguodala dunk, and was forced to keep some of the starters in the game, as the Clippers cut the deficit to 13 after a foul and an ensuing Draymond Green technical foul.

A Curry pull-up would erase that deficit soon enough — yet it’s concerning that even with a 24-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, most of the starters had to be in for the majority of the period — not departing until the 2:25 was left in regulation.

The lone bright spot besides Iguodala’s trusty performance was that of Kevon Looney, who will likely be the man Steve Kerr calls on during the upcoming series with the Rockets — and with good reason.

Looney was a sparkling plus-17 in 15 minutes of play, despite only taking and making one shot and picking up more fouls (four) than rebounds (two).

Why is that? For starters, the Warriors just play better with Looney — a spry role player that is willing to take what the defense gives him while relentlessly pounding the glass and making the right plays at both sides of the ball.

Unlike the rest of a wishy-washy championship-laden roster, Looney is all-out effort all the time, which is contagious for the rest of his teammates — often resulting in better margins.

The fourth-year big man did a splendid job guarding James Harden on switches, despite being relentlessly targeted, as was Curry throughout the series. His athleticism and level-headed play will prove pivotal to facing Houston, a team that has the blood thirst of a wolf after coming so close to reaching the NBA Finals last year.