Let’s all hope Kevin Durant gets healthy in the next week or so and continues what had been an incredible postseason run, one that would have received more deserved acclaim if two contemporaries, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, weren’t also on historic playoff marches of their own. Durant is one of the most electric athletes in all of American sports, and the NBA is at its best when the best players are playing, no matter the circumstances.
That said, if the Warriors’ incredible Game 6 comeback to eliminate the Rockets on Friday was a preview of what a Warriors team without Kevin Durant may look like in the years to come, let’s hope for that scenario.
We know what a team led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is capable of doing. We watched it from 2014-16, until Golden State gave up a 3-1 lead to lose the NBA Finals after a 73-win season. (Had you forgotten?) Durant joined the team that summer, so we only got two real magical seasons with the dynastic Warriors before creating the hegemonic Warriors. But only hardcore Golden State fans — and perhaps not even them — would argue that the last three seasons with Durant have been more entertaining than the previous two seasons without him.
Friday night reminded us why. Stephen Curry went scoreless in the first half, but the Warriors kept up with the Rockets, owing to Klay Thompson’s chocolate milk swag and some key contributions from Kevon Looney and Shaun Livingston. This was an important ingredient in early dynastic Warriors history: huge contributions from the non-stars, whether it be David Lee helping win a playoff series or Andre Iguodala winning a dang Finals MVP. Since Durant (and more recently, DeMarcus Cousins) arrived and the roster got expensive, the Warriors’ bench has been depleted, so these heroic side contributions have diminished. (Livingston had scored at least 10 points only four times this season prior to Game 6, when he scored 11.)
The strength in numbers mentality is just part of it. That classic Curry explosion in the second half — including multiple daggers to plunge Houston into a long, dark summer — was such a breath of fresh air for all who have watched Steph struggle through this postseason, catching criticism and doubt from every direction.
Curry is one of the best teammates in the league, it would appear, and has been remarkably gentle about the ongoing drama involving Durant’s future. It’s easy to imagine his second half performance, amid a frustrating series and after a highly frustrating first half, as a bit of personal catharsis. It’s in Steph’s nature to speak with actions, not words. (This sometimes includes speaking with thrown mouthpieces and demonstrative ref taunting. Sainthood is overrated anyway.)
If Durant does decamp in July for New York or Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. (ha ha ha ha sorry couldn’t resist) or anywhere else, the Warriors’ hegemony will end. But the dynasty could continue, if Curry is as up to the task as he appeared to be in the second half, and if Thompson re-ups his contract, and if Draymond Green recommits to being his best self, and if general manager Bob Myers can find paths to rebuilding the rotation around them, whether through keeping DeMarcus Cousins or dealing some of the older reserves for young blood.
And even if the dynasty ends and the Warriors don’t win any more titles after Durant departs, Friday’s Game 6 showed that it should still be a helluva time.