Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry have only been together for one playoff run, but the Golden State Warriors’ pairing appears ready to be considered among the NBA’s most impressive partnerships.
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980s or Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the early 00s for the Los Angeles Lakers, and even 1990s Chicago’s tandem of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – these stellar pairings have nothing on Golden State’s dynamic duo.
Durant, a former NBA Most Valuable Player seeking his first title, and two-time MVP Curry, the 3-point sharpshooter who sparked Golden State’s 2015 crown to snap a 40-year drought, have put the Warriors on the brink of claiming this year’s throne.
“Those guys have been unbelievable,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “They can make for a very scary duo for teams across the NBA because they’re both mismatch nightmares. They can get their shots off against anybody. And they’re coming together at the right time.”
Golden State rallied to beat defending champion Cleveland 118-113 Wednesday to seize a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
The Warriors would become the first team to make an unbeaten playoff run to the crown by winning game four Friday in Cleveland.
Durant was a star at Oklahoma City but left last July as a free agent to sign with the Warriors, smarting from a loss to Cleveland in last year’s NBA Finals when they were one win shy of a repeat crown.
Inside domination by Durant and the outside scoring threat of Curry have enabled both to flourish for most of the season, with unselfish teamwork and crisp passing punishing teams that focus too much on stopping one or the other.
“With Steph and K. D., you’re talking about guys who handle the ball, shoot from range, cut, who are kind of used to playing off the ball, so that transition was pretty smooth,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“It did take a little bit of time, but for the most part their talents fit together pretty naturally. They’re just both very unselfish and relatively quiet. Neither one craves the spotlight, but neither one shies away from it either.
– ‘It’s about both of them’ –
“They understand the power they possess together and I think that that’s an important dynamic. It’s not about one or the other, it’s about both of them. And they can put a lot of pressure on people.”
Durant took time to adjust to his new teammates and duties but bounced back from a late-season injury smoothly back into his role.
“When you go through these battles from October to now, I definitely feel like I know him a lot better than I did,” Curry said of Durant. “And that will hopefully continue as we hopefully go forward in our careers. He’s a great dude. He has a great sense of humor. I feel like I’m on dating show right now. I really like being around him, and hopefully that continues.”
There’s every chance it will. Curry is expected to sign a long-term contract with the Warriors after the season following years of being a salary bargain. And Durant has indicated he is willing to sign a one-year deal to stay and wait to ink a similar contract in 2018, spreading the salary cap load and better enabling the Warriors to keep their supporting cast together as well.
“We all bring a little something different to the table and the pieces of that puzzle fit really well,” Curry said. “And so when we’re all locked in and focused and playing aggressive, knowing that whoever has the ball will make a play, just try to keep it simple, something good’s going to happen. You’re going to either make a play yourself or for somebody else.”
– ‘We challenge each other’ –
Durant has bonded well with Curry as he once did with star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
“Steph is one of the best players in the world, one of the best players ever,” Durant said. “I definitely learned a lot from him as far as his base of his jump shot, his balance in the pick-and-roll, his ball handling, just all the skills that you see within the player.
“He has taken it to another level in just trying to challenge himself. And I try to do the same things. We challenge each other as well, so it has been a great dynamic.”
Warriors reserve Andre Iguodala has watched both men maximize their skills this season.
“You saw the gold rush for Steph. Everybody is gravitating to how he’s playing, shorter guys who can dominate the game the way he has the last couple of years.
“With KD, you just see the supernatural. It’s just crazy. He’s hard to explain. But now, that’s kind of what every (big) guy wants to be like.”
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