OAKLAND, Calif. — These are the Warriors that were supposed to be, baskets by the dozens, points by the hundreds, ignoring the possibility (that Kevin Durant may be leaving), relishing the probability (that DeMarcus Cousins is arriving) and ecstatic that Steph Curry, who scored 23 points in the third quarter alone, is once again, Steph Curry.
That was some game on a rainy Wednesday, the Warriors still weary from Tuesday night, when they scored an NBA first-quarter record 51 points in a win at Denver and then immediately flew home.
They trailed New Orleans by 17 in the first half and then again by 16 in the third quarter — the Warriors' quarter. Soon enough, they led by a point going into the fourth, Curry’s quarter, when he made 8 of 10, 7 of 8 three-pointers, and notched a 147-140 victory, their sixth in a row, as Steph finally scored 41.
Of course, the pre-game discussions were about Durant, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, and whom ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said very well could leave, forcing the Dubs to go to Plan B.
“The first thing they must do is to make sure Klay Thompson re-signs,” wrote Windhorst. “It could be argued that keeping Thompson should be the Warriors' No. 1 offseason priority no matter what happens to Durant.”
Supposedly Durant’s agent was at Oracle on Wednesday night talking to Warriors management, which could be a good sign. Or nothing.
When asked pre-game about Cousins, who after tearing an Achilles last January is scheduled to play his first game in a year on Friday against the Clippers, and about the Durant rumors, Warriors coach Steve Kerr gave what might be described as a vocal shrug.
“Our guys see a lot of stuff,” said Kerr, of the situations with Durant and Cousins, “and so do I. I think that’s part of the challenge being on this team, just trying to weed that stuff out and tune out the noise.
“Just remember what is important — and what is really important, DeMarcus coming back, both for him and the team ... We have a lot of attention, and we get picked apart pretty good night after night, but if you have perspective and have priorities it shouldn’t matter.”
The Warriors' immediate priority is to win a second straight NBA title and third in four years, and with the offense clicking and the 7-foot Cousins ready to play, that seems quite doable.
“The best thing we are doing,” said Kerr, “is we are not turning (the ball) over. We only had 10 turnovers tonight, and I think eight were in the first half. Two turnovers in the entire second half. We are getting plenty of shots up — 49 threes.
“It’s kind of a pickup game out there. I’m more like the director at the YMCA than I am a head coach. ‘You guys are the shirts and you guys are the skins, go play.'"
Which, twice when they fell behind, is exactly what the Warriors did.
“Honestly,” said Kerr about the uptick in offense, “Steph just changes the whole equation. It really does come down to Steph being back, because the tempo goes back up. He shot 17 (threes) tonight. That’s the difference. He’s going to get a ton of them up, and that just drives the team total up, obviously.”
Curry said, “It’s just moving with the ball, creating those looks. We just needed to make a good run.”
Durant won’t address where he might be next year, but he will ruminate on this season.
“I think we are in a better place as a team,” said Durant, who scored 30 on Wednesday night. “But when it comes to the court, I think we would have pulled this one out no matter what time it was in the season. I think we’ve always been connected. I think now we are making shots.”