Lost in Curry's return may have been the rediscovery of Durant's shot


OAKLAND -- Obscured by the latest magical return of Stephen Curry on Tuesday were some significant moments suggestive of comeback by the Warriors’ other all-world player.

Except Kevin Durant had not been absent. He has been in the starting lineup for all seven postseason games and for the final eight games of the regular season.

No, it was Durant’s shooting touch, particularly from beyond the arc, that needed to be recovered.

That may have happened in the fourth quarter of Game 2, when his shot was a living thing, practically breathing fire as he poured in 15 points in 11 minutes to single-handedly lock down a 121-116 win over the Pelicans.

“That's who he is. That's who he is,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said, repeating his words for emphasis. “That's not anything new.”

Said Durant: “I settled down. I was rushing in the first half, first three quarters, rushing my shots.”

It was obvious something was off in the first three quarters -- as well as most of the postseason. Indeed, it was odd to see Durant throwing up bricks in the first-round series against San Antonio and continuing to do so through the first seven quarters of the Western Conference semifinals against the Pelicans.

Durant’s 48-percent shooting, overall, against the Spurs is good but atypical for him. More alarming, he shot 25-percent (10-of-40) from deep in that series.

Durant was 16-of-38 (42.1 percent) overall and 4-of-12 (33.3 percent) from deep against the Pelicans -- until the fourth quarter of Game 2.

“I'm more of a set-up-shop type of guy, you know, just figure stuff out. See the floor, and then operate,” said Durant, who was 6-of-17 in the first three quarters. “I was rushing a little bit too much, and then I missed a few trying to find it so quickly. Shoot a quick 3 or not be disciplined in my fundamentals on my shot.

“But I just tried to slow down in the fourth and my teammates did a good job of slowing the pace for me and finding me in the post and moving off the ball, as well, to give me some space to work and I was able to knock some shots down.”

Durant’s shooting is, like the Tesla he often drives, a sublime combination of comfort, consistency and efficiency. He shot above 50 percent in each of his last six seasons. He set a career-high in his first season as a Warrior, reaching 53.7 percent from the field. Though he dropped to 51.6 percent this season, his 41.9-percent shooting beyond the arc was his best since his second season.

Durant is such a natural shooter, making shots at such a rate, that when he does misfire it seems to be by fractions of a millimeter.

His fourth-quarter numbers indicate he is once again zeroed in and on the target. Durant was 5-of-6 from the field, 4-of-4 from the line. He dropped his only triple, a 27-footer to give the Warriors a 113-103 lead with 3:12 remaining.

He looked much more like the player he has been throughout his 11-year career.

“It’s just his talent, his aggressiveness,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Yeah, it was -- at one point, I think he was like 6-for-17. When I looked at the stat sheet in the fourth quarter and he went five for his last six, by my count, so we kept going to him.”

If having Curry back on the court was delightful for the Warriors, Having Durant’s shot reemerge is at least as soothing. Unless they bring the best of their games, it’s tough to imagine the team picking up another trophy in June.

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