“I’m Kevin Durant.”
It was a simple statement made while talking with media just two days after the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round — the one where the Warriors lost after leading by 31 points in the second half at home.
In the five subsequent games he reminded us of who he is. Durant did not simply play basketball, he played on a level not often seen in the NBA Playoffs. He had become the Warriors’ best chance to score and averaged 40.2 points per game in a five-game span against the Clippers and Houston Rockets.
The hot streak started when the series shifted down to Los Angeles and Durant finished with a 38-point performance during Game 3, and he immediately followed that up with a 33-point outing in Game 4. Between the two road contests, Durant finished shooting 59 percent from the field; he was hot, but there was more to come.
In the team’s return to the Bay Area, Durant posted 45 points. Even that, however, was not enough to deter the resilient Clippers who willed their way to a second win.
The solution in Game 6: 50 points from Durant to seal the 4-2 series win for the Warriors.
The 50-point game, a playoff career-high for Durant, was an impressive outing for the Dubs’ All-Star, but one that came with some honors as well:
There was not much time to celebrate the accomplishments though; with just one day to recoup between Game 6 and their next series against the Rockets, a team that had beat the Warriors three out of their four matchups in the regular season. The Dubs had to prepare quickly for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
So, in a new NBA Playoff series, against an opponent the Warriors had struggled against, Durant welcomed the challenge brought on by Houston and answered with 35 points.
With that performance in Game 1, Durant capped-off a five-game streak of scoring 30-or-more points in five straight games, tying his career-best postseason streak (6/1/2017 – 6/12/2017). The five-game run was not just a personal accomplishment for Durant, but also placed him among elite company.
Durant was not just joining Chamberlain in reaching career milestones with the Warriors, but also surpassing the Hall of Fame center in the record books; Durant’s five-game streak brought him up to 1,310 career postseason points with the Warriors, surpassing Wilt, who had 1,246 points, for fifth place on the Warriors’ all-time postseason scoring list.
Before this five-game stretch began, Durant was 12th on the NBA’s all-time list for career three-pointers made, but now he has moved up to eighth (291) and his next postseason 3-pointer will tie him for seventh with Kobe Bryant (292).
Durant’s performance drew high praise from Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr: “He’s the most skilled basketball player on Earth… There’s never been anybody like him — 6’11”, handles the ball, shoots 3s, passes, defends. He’s an unbelievable talent.”
Size and skill aside, Kerr took his praise a step further when asked to about Durant’s play, comparing Durant to a former teammate from his days with the Chicago Bulls, “Michael… something,” he said jokingly.
Five games averaging over 40 points per game. Meeting and passing legends on all-time lists. Was Durant in the zone?
Yes. Yes he was. And the Warriors wouldn’t mind if he stays in that zone for the next several weeks.