Kevin Durant recalls first playoff experience with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac making debuts
OAKLAND, CA – Although it appears like a matchup between two veteran squads, the Patrick Beverley-led L.A. Clippers and Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors saw four key players make their NBA playoff debuts in Game 1. Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, as well as Clippers’ guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard Landry Shamet, and center Ivica Zubac, all got a taste of playoff basketball on Saturday night.
Just under nine years ago, Durant made his playoff debut, then as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 24 points in a road loss to the eventual-NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, but shot just 7-of-24 from the field. A 21-year old Durant saw the Lakers defend him far different than any regular season game.
The same went for the trio of Gilgeous-Alexander, Shamet, and Zubac, who combined for 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 7-of-24 shooting. The Warriors completely took Shamet and Zubac out of the equation while also forcing Gilgeous-Alexander to take a lot of tough, contested shots all night.
“It’s just different preparation and a different focus that you’ve got to have,” Durant told ClutchPoints when asked to recall his playoff debut. “[I was] Definitely nervous. You’re on National TV every night, so all your friends and family are watching. Every movement it dissected. Every play is dissected from everybody, so it’s just a different feel.”
One of the most talked-about changes in the playoffs is the level of preparation each team goes to, with the focus being only one team.
“I think the playoffs are a different [beast], they’re not like the regular season,” said Doc Rivers before the series started. “I’ve said that forever. Number one is, during the playoffs, they’re rested, they’re more prepared, and you’re getting their best. In the regular season, they’d be coming off a two week road trip, you just don’t know. There’s such a different game there, it’s not even close to the regular season. You just have to be prepared.”
Rivers and his coaching staff have been especially locked in since the postseason began now that all hands are on deck.
“During the regular season, your coaches are separated. They have a team doing this game, this game, this game, and that game. During the playoffs, they have that team. That’s it. All of them, and they’re all working at the same time, so it’s kind of nice.”
Durant noted that the biggest changes in his eyes came from the way defenses schemed against him. Known mostly a scorer back then, the Lakers exploited Durant’s weaknesses en-route to a six-game series victory.
“When you’ve got a week to prepare for a team, two days before first game and a couple days in between each game to plan for a team, you’ve got a lot of time to just focus on one group,” said Durant at Warriors shootaround Monday. “When you’re preparing, that’ll take away a lot of the stuff that you see in the regular season that happens so easily.
“Plays that may work in the regular season, players that may get off in the regular season, that stuff kind of simmers down when the playoffs come around because of the preparation. You’ve got to be ready on your game if you want to stay in the game.”
Durant is far removed from that younger, less-experienced self, and the Clippers are expecting their trio of young guys to get better with experience as well. It starts on Monday night with Game 2 at Oracle Arena.