The Golden State Warriors lost on Tuesday night, and in more ways than one. On the second stop of an extended road trip, and on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Dubs suffered a defeat at the hands of the energetic Washington Wizards. More devastatingly, the Warriors saw their prized off-season acquisition, Kevin Durant, limp off the floor after taking a friendly-fire shot to the knee from Zaza Pachulia. An MRI is ostensibly in progress, and just like last season, the path the Warriors will have to take is almost wholly dependent on the results of a medical exam on a superstar player’s knee ligaments.
Without mincing any words, this sucks. Durant was in the midst of arguably the finest season of his storied career, piling up some of the most efficient scoring numbers I have ever seen while taking his defensive skills to the next level. The value he brings to a finesse-heavy Dubs roster can’t be overstated; his unique ability to literally score from anywhere on the floor and will himself to the free throw line is something that has meant and would mean the difference between victory and defeat when the Warriors’ shots aren’t falling. A prime example of this was against the 76ers yesterday, where Durant helped the Dubs win a game they would have undoubtedly lost a season ago with Steph Curry shooting 0-for-everything from behind the arc. Durant was the answer to all the questions that the Warriors had: the elite scorer from the forward spot who could create his own shot, own his matchup on defense, and get to the line for some freebies when the playoffs turn rugged.
The Warriors opened the game with very little spring in their steps, and were further deflated just minutes into the game when Durant exited. After digging themselves into a 19 point hole, the Dubs (to their credit) responded to set up a nailbiting finish. Ultimately, however, the late game execution, as has been typical this season, wasn’t up to snuff and the Wizards, led by impressive performances from John Wall (19 assists, 1 thunderous dunk), Bradley Beal (25 points), and Markieff Morris (22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks), dealt the Warriors their 10th regular season loss, one more than they had all of last season.
The Warriors, despite taking the L, were fuelled by a bench that found all sorts of ways to contribute. Whether it was David West, who stuffed the stat sheet with a rugged 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a legendary block on John Wall, a turnover, and 3 personal fouls, or Shaun Livingston, who shook off an injury scare of his own to toss up 14 points on 5-7 shooting and a pair of blocks, or even James Michael McAdoo, who continued his upward climb by notching 4 points, 4 boards, and a block in his 12 minutes of play, the bench was at the heart of the Dubs’ turnaround. In contrast, the starters struggled mightily. Stephen Curry’s 3 point shot again deserted him, as he finished 2-9 from behind the arc and just 9-20 overall. Meanwhile, his Splash Brother Klay Thompson fired his way to a 5-20 performance that had him a game-worst -17 in +/-. Overall, the only Warriors starter not in the negative was Draymond Green, while the entire bench (excepting JaVale McGee and Patrick McCaw) was in the positive. Everything in this game was overshadowed by the specter of Durant’s injury, but Draymond’s performance was something to behold, as he came through in the clutch (as he always seems to do) with a pair of threes to go with 8 rebounds and a monster 14 assists, which was a cool 50% of the entire team’s assist count.
It speaks volumes to the Warriors’ depth (and the Wizards’ lack thereof) that on a night when they lost one of the best players in the NBA to injury and suffered through cringeworthy shooting performances from two of their stars, the Dubs were one Curry 3 away from potentially winning this game. While the outcome of the game means little in the long run, any sort of long-term injury to Durant would be catastrophic for the top-heavy Warriors’ chances to survive a loaded Western Conference and even make it to the NBA Finals. Adam wrote at the beginning of the season that the Warriors would play 82 meaningless preseason games before things actually started to matter; in a cruel quirk of fate, one of those “meaningless February games,” as Anthony Slater termed it, might have a lasting impact on the Warriors’ title chances and the NBA landscape as a whole.
It is gallows humor to think like this, but I always figured that Durant would be the Warriors’ shield against any major injuries. Ironically, all us fans can do is wait, with bated breath, for the MRI results on Durant’s left knee, and pray that the prognosis is favorable.
The post Bated Breath (Warriors 108, Wizards 112) appeared first on Fast Break.