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5 Clutch Points: Kevin Durant torches Clippers in Game 3 win, yet there’s still a missing ingredient

The Golden State Warriors bounced back from a historically horrific loss in Game 2 after giving up a 31-point lead midway through the third quarter, this time leading from end-to-end, coasting to a 132-105 road win over the L.A. Clippers.

Kevin Durant; the dormant lion of this series, finally showed his fangs, ferociously attacking Patrick Beverley and the Clippers defense with an impeccable scoring array.

Yet there is still one key ingredient missing from this first-round series. These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 3 of Warriors vs. Clippers:

“I’m Kevin Durant. Y’all know who I am.”

If Kevin Durant hadn’t made his presence felt in the first two games, he made damn sure he would in Game 3. If his basketball genius wasn’t evident after a detailed post-game breakdown of his battle with Patrick Beverley, Dr. Durant put on a scoring clinic on the 6-foot-1 guard to demonstrate it, quickly getting to his spots and taking one dribble or less to get his night started.

KD started 6-of-6 from the field and ironically didn’t need to appear in the fourth quarter after being ejected in Game 1 and fouling out in Game 2, dealing all his damage in the first three periods with a rousing 38 points, seven assists, four rebounds, a steal and a block in only 30 minutes of action.

It took only a minute and 39 seconds of play for Durant to record his first two fouls of the game, putting head coach Steve Kerr in a precarious situation, yet the Warriors boss left him in the game β€” proving to be the right decision as he would finish the quarter with 12 points before leaving for the bench at the 3:45 mark.

Durant’s scoring barrage was only getting started, as he poured in another 15 points in the second quarter to finish with 27 points at the half. His 38 points were the most he’s scored since Feb. 10, the 23 shot attempts his most since a 9-of-25 performance without Stephen Curry in late March and his 10 attempted 3-pointers were the most since the end of February.

Draymond Green put his performance bluntly, calling it “kill mode.”

β€œHe said it yesterday,” Kerr said, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. β€œHe’s Kevin Durant. He showed everybody who Kevin Durant is.”

The Slim Reaper, however, didn’t feel like he needed to show his capabilities to anyone but himself.

β€œI’ve been in the league 12 years,” Durant said. β€œI’m 30. I don’t need to show nobody nothing at this point.”

“If I throw something back, then let us play.”

Part of Durant’s viral response went largely unheard by the national audience, a second part that was just as important as his in depth-breakdown of his scoring situation when matched against Patrick Beverley.

“The refs see — we hear David and Goliath a lot growing up — that story is pretty prominent in people’s minds,” said Durant. “So that story is pretty much prominent in people’s minds. So when you put that out there on the court against me, the refs going to give him a little bit more. So when he run up on me like a pitbull, grab me, hold me, I don’t mind it. That’s how he make his money. That’s how he feed his family. But if I throw something back, then let us play. You get what I’m saying? I got four or five offensive fouls like that. I’m trying to figure out each possession, how I can be more effective not getting offensive fouls.”

Not only did Durant pick up two fouls in less than two minutes to start the game, but his teammate Stephen Curry, was once again mired in foul trouble, disrupting his scoring momentum throughout the game.

Curry picked up his second foul at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter after reaching, then his third in the dying minutes of the first half by a grab of Landry Shamet’s elbow, which the local and national broadcast (TNT) deemed a non-foul.

After getting in a groove in the third quarter, hitting a corner 3-pointer off a Durant assist and then a free-throw line jumper, Curry would get whistled for his fourth foul and consequently pulled to the bench.

If that wasn’t enough, Durant engaged in some friendly, competitive back-and-forth with the Clippers’ JaMychal Green, only to receive double technical fouls in the third quarter, to his surprise.

Both technical fouls have since been rescinded by the league office.

Even fouls like this one were unnecessary, as Beverley hopes to set his ground on a taller Durant.

Officials called a total of 31 fouls in the first half, and while they were mostly even (16 on the Warriors, 15 on the Clippers), it was too choppy for a first-round playoff game that needed some flow.

It’s worthy to note that all three games have been officiated by different crews, but the referees have put an emphasis on player conduct, therefore resulting in a barrage of technical fouls the NBA has seen through the first round of the postseason.

No Boogie, no problem

The loss of DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t felt throughout this game, as Andrew Bogut got the start at center, circa 2016 β€” helping the Warriors with eight points, a team-high 14 rebounds and five assists through his 25 minutes of action.

Bogut not only played his usual stiff defense patrolling the paint, but also was a key contributor offensively early on, always the opportunist in plays like this one that got Durant out of double-team trouble.

Bogut had five assists and four offensive rebounds, two key stats to the Warriors ball-movement and second chance opportunities.

The Warriors kept their eye on Bogut after he went to play in Australia and THIS is the reason why. The value of having a player with such basketball IQ, one that already knows the system in the way he does, is invaluable for a veteran team that has no time or room for re-learning the basics three-quarters into the season.

His incorporation was seamless, never skipping a beat with his knowledge of Steve Kerr’s system, as well as his natural basketball savvy. Golden State wanted a capable insurance policy for Cousins, and they’ve got one in Bogut.

Kevon Looney’s run as a utility big man has been far understated, and never any more than this season, now that he is able to bring a punch off either end of the floor.

The fourth-year big man followed a career-high 19-point effort in Game 2 with an effective 10-point stint off the bench on Thursday, including this sweet rejection at the rim, soon rewarded with a freight-train drive and dunk.

Looney signed a one-year deal to return to the Warriors this past summer, but Golden State will be able to pay him what they want this time around, now owners of his full Bird Rights.

Despite playing less than 20 minutes in each of Golden State’s three playoff games, Looney is 14-of-17 from the floor through this postseason run and his efficiency could prove a big reason the Warriors can withstand the sudden loss of Cousins.

Road Warriors

After Thursday’s Game 3 win over the Clippers, Golden State has now won a road playoff game in each of the team’s last 20 postseason series, the longest streak in NBA history.

This streak engulfs the entire playoff careers of the original Big 3 β€” Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The Warriors, who are mostly known for their home court advantage at Oracle Arena, have also proved to have indomitable will in road arenas, making statements in each of the best venues around the country.

The streak started, out of all places, in San Antonio, as a 97-87 overtime win in the 2013 postseason was the first to introduce the taste of stealing home court β€” a habit they’ve yet to abandon through seven straight postseasons.

The Warriors beat a bevy of Western Conference teams, including the Spurs, Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who suffered the most road losses (six) of any of the aforementioned teams after four straight NBA Finals clashes with the Warriors.

What to expect for Game 4?

Did anyone say pest? If no one did is because Patrick Beverley’s disruptive effect wasn’t felt much besides the first half, as he quickly picked up four fouls early in the third quarter, along with a technical foul for swatting at Curry’s hand after the whistle had blown.

Expect Beverley, who played 18 minutes in the loss, to gauge his foul trouble much better than Thursday night and continue his relentless pursuit of bothering Durant.

KD now has two technical fouls in three games this series after his latest was rescinded, but expect Beverley to continue to instigate trouble for the two-time Finals MVP throughout the course of this series.

A Stephen Curry bounce-back game is another expectation, as he was mired in foul trouble now for three straight games and while he’s been effective, he’s yet to showcase the full potential as the flamethrower of this team.

Curry has had a bad habit of reaching, but a lot of the calls have been a rather unfortunate result of the chippiness of this series, which has forced officials to call the game much tighter than usual.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers has shown his intent to stop Curry from catching fire, quickly calling timeouts after he makes consecutive baskets or rails one from way deep, hoping to get the crowd settled and his team back in the game.

Road arena or not, there is no shot more deflating in the NBA than a Curry bomb from 30 feet and beyond β€” and plenty of teams have experienced what it’s like to be on the end of that massive swing of momentum.

Curry put up 21 points in an efficient 7-of-11 and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, posting a strong plus-19 in 20 minutes of play β€” though he’s had four or more fouls in each of the three postseason games so far.

Kerr challenged his point guard before the Game 3, noting that while some fouls have been a result of the physicality of the series, his poor habits have led to more harm than good.

“Steph’s gotta do a better job and he knows that,” Kerr said, according to Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area. “His ill-advised reaching is just killing him because he doesn’t need to do that. He’s much more important to us than two points for the opposition.

“I told him, ‘If you’re beat, show your hands (and) don’t reach. Maybe a big blocks the shot and if they score they score, but we need you out on the floor.'”

Expect the two-time MVP to take that advice to heart and come out swinging in Game 4.