Golden State Warriors: Game 6 vs. Houston is the biggest game of Kevin Durant’s career

NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Kevin Durant is the second best basketball player in the world, but he’s come up small in the last two fourth quarters of the Western Conference Finals. And with the Golden State Warriors facing elimination as they head home, Game 6 will be the biggest game of Durant’s career

Kevin Durant is an NBA Finals champion, and no one can take that away from him. But Game 6 of the Golden State Warriors’ Western Conference Finals matchup with the Houston Rockets is the biggest game of Durant’s career.

The Western Conference Finals has been a chaotic rollercoaster. The Warriors won Game 1 in Houston, and the Rockets responded, winning by 22 in Game 2. Then, the series shifted to Golden State where the Warriors ran the Rockets out of the building winning by 41, but the Rockets mounted an impressive 12-point comeback in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece.

Game 5 was a disturbing and confusing display of basketball on Golden State’s behalf. After blowing a 12-point fourth quarter lead at home in Game 4, the Warriors had to come out aggressive and find a way to win Game 5  to get home-court advantage in their favor.

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Instead, they scored just 45 points in the first half, couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm offensively, and failed to make a field goal in the final minute of regulation. Quinn Cook missed a wide-open look from beyond the arc, Stephen Curry missed a running shot off glass with two defenders in his face, and he then opted to pass the ball to a wide-open Draymond Green with seconds left on the game clock, and the big man couldn’t reel in the pass.

Curry (the Warriors $201 million point guard) passed up the big shot, opting to trust Green to catch a pass and either stick a game winner or hit Klay Thompson in the corner.

Where was Kevin Durant in this late-game fiasco? He didn’t attempt a single shot or free throw in the final minute of Game 5 and made just one field goal in the same quarter the game prior.

Now, is Durant the sole reason why the Warriors find themselves down 3-2? Of course not; Curry deserves a great deal of blame, as do Thompson and Green. You could even say that head coach Steve Kerr has a lot on the line in Game 6. But it’s important to remember that the Warriors never needed Durant; he was the cherry on top of a formidable roster.

The Warriors have won the NBA Finals without him, but Durant felt that coming to Golden State would: 1) Get him the championship his Hall of Fame career has been deprived of and 2) Make the Warriors essentially unbeatable.

While the Warriors swept their way through the Western Conference, and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in five games last season, Golden State was never faced with a true challenge. Going into this year’s Western Conference Finals, they knew they were getting just that and then some. Surely enough, Houston has taken a 3-2 series lead, and the Warriors haven’t swept a postseason series.

Friday afternoon, it was announced that Rockets’ point guard Chris Paul will not be able to play in Game 6 due to a hamstring injury he suffered late in Game 5 – which is a huge loss for Houston. He and Harden form the best backcourt in the NBA, and without him, the Rockets will need Harden to snap out of his funk (Harden shot 23.8 percent from the field and 0-11 from three in Game 5) and others to step up versus a very good defensive Warriors’ team.

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  • And quite frankly, if Golden State can’t, at the very least, win Game 6 on their home floor with Paul sidelined, they don’t deserve to be in the conversation for being the best team in NBA history.

    Durant was blown out by the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals alongside Russell Westbrook, but the NBA world gave he and the Oklahoma City Thunder a slight pass because it was their first Finals appearance, and they were a very young team. Four years later, Durant had the Warriors on the ropes up 3-1, but he and the Thunder couldn’t win one out of three games, squandering the chance to defeat the 73-win Warriors – which he, in particular, was crucified for. In the offseason, Durant made the bold decision to join the team he couldn’t close out – that being the Warriors.

    Granted he was able to help deliver a title to Golden State, doing so alongside Curry, Thompson, Green, and Andre Iguodala has and always will have some of the mindset that his first championship doesn’t count because he had to join a star-studded roster to accomplish it. If he cannot come up big and get Golden State back to the NBA Finals, the critics will only grow louder for Durant.

    Steve Kerr can say the Warriors aren’t worried down 3-2, and perhaps they’re not. But when you lose two games in a row, are facing elimination, and consider yourself the best team in the NBA, there’s an overwhelming amount of pressure to overcome whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Durant is the second best basketball player in the world, but the Warriors have won a ring without him, and if they don’t reach the Finals this season everyone will get some blame, but no one will garner as much attention or discussion as Durant.

    At this stage of his career, Durant has little to no weaknesses in his game. He dominates in isolation, can pull-up from beyond the arc, finish at the rim, and has become an elite defender over the last few years. The fact that he’s averaged 25.1 and 26.4 points per game in two regular seasons with Curry, Thompson, and Green by his side only adds onto the significance of his success. But the Warriors cannot hide from the fact that Durant has made a combined one field goal in the last two fourth quarters of this series; he and the Warriors have to end the slump and negative notion that can establish itself from that once and for all on Saturday night.

    And if all of that doesn’t convince you that Game 6 is a defining moment for Durant’s career, maybe this snippet will: Imagine if two months from now, you’re looking back on the 2018 NBA playoffs and are talking about how the Warriors were up 2-1 on the Rockets after winning Game 3 by 41 points. Afterwards, the Warriors lose the next two games in the series where they could’ve won as time expired, and then proceed to lose at home despite Houston playing without Chris Paul – marking the first time in the Kerr-era that the Warriors don’t reach the NBA Finals.

    That would be quite staining, no?

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    Kevin Durant is arguably the best pure scorer in the game, but his ability to be such a threat late in games has come into question lately. By getting Golden State to the NBA Finals, and helping them win back-to-back games for the first time in this series against a gifted Rockets’ team, those doubts can be erased.

    Win or lose, the storyline for Game 6 is the same for Durant: It’s the biggest game of his career.