NBA Writer: Warriors Embrace Pressure On Them

Statement wins don’t happen too often in the NBA in November, but the Golden State Warriors got one Thursday, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-96. Kevin Durant went off for 39 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one emphatic block of Russell Westbrook, who was outplayed and out-manned by Durant and Golden State.

“This is something that Steve Kerr has preached pretty much through all of training camp and through the early part of the season,” Bleacher Report columnist Erik Malinowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We need to find a way to integrate Kevin into our game. He doesn’t feel like the Warriors themselves need to change a whole lot; he certainly does not feel like Kevin needs to change anything. For him, it’s just about finding a happy medium where the pieces just kind of fit into the other. I think what you saw tonight was the ideal of what that situation looks like. Kevin can take those long shots, he can go iso if he needs to – he’s one of the best scorers in the entire NBA. So to some extent, you just want to let him play his game that he’s comfortable with, but here’s a way that he can integrate into what was already a pretty powerful Warriors offense.”

Durant shot 7-of-11 from three-point range, as the Warriors outscored Oklahoma City 37-11 in the second quarter.

“When they’re clicking – and I don’t think they were going 100 percent full-steam tonight – but they were more than good enough to make a pretty good Oklahoma City team look pretty bad for most of the night,” Malinowski said. “I can’t imagine what this team is going to look like 20, 30, maybe 40 game into the season when they’ve gone on some road trips, they’ve had some win streaks and they’re just not thinking about the game anymore where it’s just all sort of coming a little bit more naturally for them.”

Golden State (4-1) has now won four straight games since its season-opening 129-100 loss to San Antonio.

“The Spurs game is really looking like an outlier, but it wasn’t easy,” Malinowski said. “They had a couple wins following that against New Orleans and Phoenix, and they were good wins. You’ll take them. But they were not very confident-looking. You can still see that there’s a lot of hesitation. But tonight it felt very natural. It felt very organic. Steph Curry had maybe the quietest 21 points and seven assists I think of his entire career. I barely even noticed when he was on the floor. He was pretty much a non-factor tonight, and you’re talking about the two-time reigning MVP. If that is what this Warriors team is going to look like – not even at their best, but maybe 70 or 80 percent of their best – that’s not bad. They’ll take that every time and say thanks.”

Although the Warriors didn’t win the title last year, they are still very much the hunted in the NBA this season.

“I think the acquisition of Durant really changed everything and sort of reinforced this narrative,” Malinowski said. “They haven’t shied away from it. They’ve sort of met it head on and embraced it and said, ‘This is what’s in the past, and we’re hellbent on not repeating that in any way whatsoever.’ In some ways, it’s like all the pressure is on them, but in some ways, they really do embrace that. The know what it takes to get (to the Finals). It’ll be interesting to see sort of how they execute that along the way. They have all the knowledge, they have all the talent. It’s really just going to come down to the execution.”

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