Moments after Kevin Durant hit the game-winner in the Warriors’ pivotal Game 3 victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday, Draymond Green said it was the high-pressure situations late in the game that Golden State needed the former league MVP for in the first place.
“He wants that moment,” Green said during his post-game interview with NBA TV. “Down the stretch, he made plays for us. When you got guys out there like KD, but then Steph and Klay and all these guys as other options, that’s tough to guard. So K stepped up and made plays.
“It’s funny cause I told him earlier in the year, I said, ‘It’s cool that you’re here, but we really don’t need you for the regular season. We kinda gonna need you for these Finals.’ And he stepped up big and made plays for us.”
Down two points with the just 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Durant dribbled up court and calmly nailed a pull-up three-pointer in LeBron James’ face. It completely deflated a Cavaliers team that put forth an incredible effort in a must-win Game 3 after losing the first two games in Oakland.
Green was right. The Warriors didn’t need Durant during the regular season. They proved as much when the four-time scoring champion went down with a strained MCL in March, an injury that cost him nearly a month of action.
Golden State lost three of its first five games after his injury, then proceeded to rattle off 14 straight victories and finish the year 15-1. Durant even missed Games 2 and 3 of the Warriors’ first-round playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Dubs still won those games to sweep.
Durant took a lot of heat for his controversial decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer for a Warriors team that eliminated him in last year’s Western Conference Finals. But already, the almost 7-foot wing has proven to be the difference-maker for a team that broke the NBA record for most wins in a season last year.
Durant finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He was the equalizer for a Warriors team that is now one win shy of becoming the first team to sweep through the playoffs in NBA history. And he’s the X-factor on a team that’s set to sweep the best basketball player in the world.
This is why he came to the Warriors. Not to help them get to the Finals, but to win it all. And it sure looks like he’s delivered on his end of the bargain so far.