“I still missed 17 shots,” Durant said. “Tricked off a 50 piece. I felt like I had some shots that I wish I could have made last game and this game. … So I wish I could have made more shots and I’m pretty sure all my teammates felt that way.”
Durant’s teammates and coaches are just happy the All-Star forward is on their team after the 30-year-old sharpshooter racked up his second straight 40-point game — while adding nine assists and six rebounds. It is just the third time in his career he has done that, and the first since 2011.
He also became just the seventh player in Warriors history to score at least 40 in two straight games, joining a group that includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Antawn Jamison and Purvis Short, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“Incredible,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Durant’s performance. “The guy is just amazing. He’s so talented. I think the last few games he just kind of knew he had to put us on his shoulders because of the four-game losing streak, the struggles.”
The Warriors, once down as many as 18 points, crawled all the way because of the brilliance of Durant and Thompson. The pair outscored the Magic by themselves, 42-34, during the final 18 minutes of the game. Thompson’s 19 fourth-quarter points and five fourth-quarter 3-pointers both tied career highs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The pair scored or assisted on 53 of the Warriors’ 69 second-half points and scored 32 of the Warriors 37 fourth-quarter points.
“I think Kevin said it once, ‘Just empty the clip.'” Thompson said. “At the end of the day you’re going to make or miss shots. You just got to keep shooting, be aggressive, find your shot. And in that fourth I was just aggressive to get good looks and then you see a couple go in and you feel like you can hit everything.”
After dropping four straight games, the first time that has happened in the Kerr era, the Warriors have pushed through their self-created drama by winning three straight games and are on the verge of getting Draymond Green (toe) and Curry (groin) back at some point on their upcoming five-game road trip. The black cloud that seemed to hover over this team after a Nov. 12 overtime loss to the LA Clippers that was overshadowed by verbal arguments between Durant and Green, has been lifted and the Warriors are moving confidently into another phase of the season.
“All the stuff that happened this month, it felt like so long ago,” Durant said. “I think we just moved past that and we’re trying to just play good basketball.”
Kerr echoed those sentiments.
“I thought tonight was one of the best games of the year,” Kerr said. “You could feel the energy in the crowd, you could feel the competitive desire from our players. You could also feel it from the guys on the bench. Just huge energy. Yeah, we’ve moved on from that stuff.”
Durant’s play has served as the catalyst for this group’s recent hot streak. Over his past three games, Durant has 125 points, 27 rebounds and 23 assists.
“Obviously we’re short-handed, but Kevin’s taken it upon him to treat these games like it’s his last,” Thompson said. “He plays with so much effort and energy that you wouldn’t think you’d see that with such a superstar. It’s November and he plays like it’s Game 5 of the [NBA] Finals. That’s how much he cares, and it’s really driven us to go on this little win streak.”
For his part, Durant made it a point to praise younger teammates, including backup point guard Quinn Cook, for the role the reserves have played in winning these past few games without Green and Curry.
“It’s only going to be good for our team when Steph gets back and Quinn still has that confidence coming off the bench for us,” Durant said. “I think that’s going to be key. … The guys that have stepped up while those guys have been out, you got to give them a lot of credit for playing extremely hard every single minute they’re on the floor. It’s only going to give us confidence as a bunch as we move forward.”
Now the Warriors get set for a Thursday showdown against the Toronto Raptors. It’s a matchup that Thompson believes may be a precursor to a NBA Finals preview later this season.
“Right now, they’re the best and I expect them to be there for probably throughout the whole season,” Thompson said of the Raptors’ place in the Eastern Conference. “They got tremendous length, they got so many two-way players and obviously Kawhi is back and playing at an MVP level. Kyle Lowry‘s a great leader, as well as he’s a bulldog out there. So it’s going to be a great test for us. Who knows? It might be a preview of June, but they got something really special up there in Canada right now.”