OAKLAND, California — Kevin Durant’s brilliant night on both ends got cut short by an ejection.
Durant emphatically showed who is still No. 1 in the West
Durant emphatically showed who is still No. 1 in the West, delivering a pair of jarring dunks late in the first half and finishing with 21 points and six assists before being tossed to lead the Golden State Warriors past the Denver Nuggets, 116-102, on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Manila) in a matchup of the top teams in the conference.
“The energy in the crowd at that point was incredible. When he attacked like that and hammered those two dunks down you could feel the power in the arena, you could feel our home crowd, you could feel the energy of our players,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Those two plays kind of broke the game open and gave us a lot of life. I thought Kevin was tremendous tonight. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get to play more.”
Other NBA games saw Oklahoma City bamboozle the L.A. Lakers, 119-103; San Antonio crush Atlanta, 117-111; and Houston rout Sacramento, 130-105.
DeMarcus Cousins had a season-best 28 points, on 12-for-17 shooting, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks for the Warriors (53-24), who have a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on Denver (51-26) with five games to go in the chase for the Western Conference’s top seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Golden State lost out on the No. 1 spot to Houston last year, but still went on to capture a repeat title.
Durant was ejected with 8:21 left in the third. He became furious wanting a foul call when he airballed a three-point shot over Paul Millsap, then pointed at and yelled toward official Zach Zarba. Cousins stood between Durant and Zarba, who wasted no time tossing the two-time reigning finals MVP.
Those were his 14th and 15th technicals, meaning he is one away from an automatic suspension. Cousins was ejected against Charlotte on Sunday, when the Warriors clinched their fifth straight Pacific Division crown.
When he attacked like that and hammered those two dunks down you could feel the power in the arena.
Before that, Durant dazzled.
He rebounded Jamal Murray’s missed 3 and drove the court, dribbling with his left hand through the paint before switching hands to deliver a powerful one-handed slam. Durant had another moment before halftime, driving the baseline for a two-handed dunk as the Warriors grabbed a 59-43 halftime lead. He also had a pair of blocked shots.
Stephen Curry added 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. His 3-pointer with 7:22 left gave him five or more 3s in a career-best nine straight games and moved the two-time MVP (16,236) past Chris Mullin (16,235) for fourth place on the Warriors all-time points list.
Murray scored 17 points after he departed the Nuggets’ 95-90 home loss Sunday to Washington in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return. Murray, who missed six games from 26 January to 4 February with an injury to the same ankle, was closely monitored and played nearly 29 minutes.