The Toronto Raptors wanted one more garbage time bucket. They were going to lose either way, down 10 points with seconds left in the game, but the Raptors kept going instead of letting time run out. The ball ended up with DeMarre Carroll under the rim for a layup ... that Kevin Durant blocked. As Carroll collected the ball and put up one more shot, Durant did it again.
There’s nothing wrong with playing to the whistle. Stephen Curry drove for a layup on the Warriors’ final possession instead of letting time expire, so naturally the Raptors did the same. They just didn’t anticipate Durant going full Mutombo, denying both shots with ease as the buzzer expired.
This is the new Durant. You’ve probably heard him called a guard trapped in a big man’s body, or something to that effect. But the 6’9 Durant — and that’s only if we’re going by listed height — can be a big man in a big man’s body, too. He’s an effortless ball handler with a shooting stroke as smooth as butter, but Durant can do way more than that. In Golden State, the Warriors have unlocked him fully.
Here’s Durant’s full line in the 121-111 win which Durant refused to let be 121-113 — 22 points, 8-of-15 shooting, 17 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. With a line like that, you can forgive the six turnovers.
Kevin Durant: 1st Warriors player with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks in game (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 29, 2016
His rebounding and rim defense obviously stands out. The Warriors lack a versatile center, surviving in the regular season with the limited Zaza Pachulia, the enjoyable numbskullery of JaVale McGee and a dash of David West when appropriate. Draymond Green can obviously do it, too, but the Warriors would like to save his wear and tear for the postseason. But while Golden State surely won’t want Durant defending too many bruising big men, he’s showing more and more how capable he is at center. Durant’s athletic and (probably) seven feet tall. That’s more than most centers anyway, honestly.
Durant to the Warriors unlocks so many great things, like the Warriors shooting 74 percent as a team in the first half and the team’s 33 assists on 46 made field goals. (That is a low ratio, by their standards, seeing as Golden State started with 36 assists in 36 made field goals earlier this season.) But what wasn’t talked about, as the Warriors lost key defensive pieces Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, is what they could get Durant to do on that end, too.
With only 15 shot attempts on Wednesday, Durant had the time during his minutes on the court. In Oklahoma City, it was always about him, only taking rests on the court when Westbrook was ready and rarely worrying about defense simply because there was only so much energy he could exert. Now that his demands are less strenuous, Durant has time to smell the roses. He can sit back and block a shot, knowing his teammates will pick up the slack on the ensuing vast break. He can throw that pass, trusting it’ll go to a 40-percent shooter rather than a 28-percent one. Maybe this is a reason why Durant chose the Warriors, if you’ll allow that speculation. Maybe Durant wanted to be more well-rounded as a player, among other things.
The Warriors are the league’s second-best defensive team (out of first by just a hair), if you wanted proof that Durant was working. He has almost unlimited talent, and it’s showing as Golden State pushes him to be that type of defender and facilitator more and more. Durant is following through — and not for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. No, he’ll block your shot even after the clock has expired if that’s what it takes.
Jimmy keeps putting Chicago on his back
This is Jimmy Butler’s show. It’s his team, and the Bulls are going as he takes them. Wednesday showed that, as Butler needed 40 points and his first NBA buzzer beater to top the Brooklyn Nets 101-99 at home.
Brooklyn made as many threes (13) as the Bulls attempted (3-of-13), and once again Chicago’s spacing is a mess. Rajon Rondo’s the biggest culprit, now shooting under 38 percent from the field, something that has been exacerbated by his 42-percent shooting at the rim. Butler is attempted 3.3 threes per game, but the Bulls are dead last in three-point shooting, trading twos for opponents who nail triples.
The way Butler is surviving despite a cramped offense speaks to why he’s probably the Eastern Conference’s second-best player this season. (You can’t go wrong with him or Giannis Antetokounmpo, after all.) He shot 14-of-29 on Wednesday with 11 made free throws, to go with his 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. He knocked down the last shot and was mobbed by his teammates on the floor. They could probably do that every game, game winner or not, with the way they rely on him.
The 10,290 man
Congratulations to DeMar DeRozan, who became the Raptors’ all-time leading scorer in the loss to the Warriors.
With 29 points against Golden State, DeRozan has scored 10,290 points in his career, ahead of Chris Bosh, Vince Carter and ... Andrea Bargnani? How’d he get in this?
More great things on Wednesday
This Warriors fast break that didn’t count.
Dennis Smith, a very high NBA Draft prospect, dunking this like Westbrook.
Carmelo Anthony bizarrely got ejected last night.
Nuggets 105, Timberwolves 103 (Denver Stiffs recap | Canis Hoopus recap)
Spurs 119, Suns 98 (Pounding the Rock recap | Bright Side of the Sun recap)
Pelicans 102, Clippers 98 (The Bird Writes recap | Clips Nation recap)
Bulls 101, Nets 99 (Blog a Bull recap | Nets Daily recap)
Bucks 119, Pistons 94 (Brew Hoop recap | Detroit Bad Boys recap)
Hawks 102, Knicks 98, OT (Peachtree Hoops recap | Posting & Toasting recap)
Hornets 120, Magic 101 (At the Hive recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)
Wizards 111, Pacers 105 (Bullets Forever recap | Indy Cornrows recap)
Warriors 121, Raptors 111 (Golden State of Mind recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Trail Blazers 102, Kings 89 (Blazer’s Edge recap | Sactown Royalty recap)