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OAKLAND, Calif. — From turmoil to titans in the span of 10 days.

It’s January and not June, so it’s still premature to say the Golden State Warriors are going to stick the landing on the massive leap they’re seeking to make from talented group to title team.

But in the span of a little more than a week, they seem to have moved from turmoil to titans.

The Warriors’ 126-91 rout on Monday of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers came just 10 days after Golden State imploded on this same home court in an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. That loss featured Draymond Green’s barking at Kevin Durant to make sure Durant knew in that moment just how much he was looking like a misfit with Warriors culture.

Credit Golden State for the progress it’s made since that game—and the progress made since its Christmas meltdown in Cleveland, another loss marred by late-game offensive uncertainty.

As much as Steve Kerr mostly puts a happy face on it, because the Warriors’ chemistry is so good and his guys’ intentions remain pure, Kerr and his assistant coaches have had countless meetings fretting how far their star-driven squad is from developing the team-based style Kerr believes in.

The issue boils down to their not wanting to be more like Durant and their insistence Durant become more like them.

The advanced stats show Durant’s 41.7 true shooting percentage in clutch situations (last five minutes, score within five points) is the worst on the team, which is all the more reason to push back against his individual ego.


Rocky Widner/Getty Images

A matchup against Durant’s former Oklahoma City team Wednesday will be a further reminder of how far the Warriors want Durant to get from his former self, that isolation-offense torchbearer who never won a title.


“Strength in Numbers” is the credo of this Warriors team. And while it is a phrase that has been trademarked for sale on T-shirts and all manner of memorabilia, it is also a philosophy rooted in belief.

Yes, Golden State can boast a two-man game between Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, who together make this the first time two former MVPs have begun a season as teammates clearly in their primes, not yet 29 years old. But this Warriors team, with this assemblage of talent, works on the premise that they are most effective when they utilize their entire roster, when they play as a team.

Kerr believes in moving the ball and maximizing role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to make everyone a part of something, even when others might worry about getting Klay Thompson enough shots or Green enough touches.

With Durant in town now, though, the Warriors have been doing what they can to make space for him—especially Curry, whose usage rate has dropped (32.6 to 28.9) even more than Durant’s (30.6 to 27.6) from last season. Curry has also dialed way back on his pull-up three-point parties (shooting 1.7 fewer threes a game this season) and has posted his lowest assist totals in five years.

Isolation plays for Livingston, Curry and Iguodala have had a certain place in Golden State’s offense for years, but Durant has gotten more isolations than any of them this season. (Durant also has the highest scoring frequency on them: 50 percent.)

But the Warriors of late have begun to push back, prideful in their beautiful, sharing-is-caring offense and determined never to be so simplistic as to run their playbook through Durant.

That’s why the Durant-opts-for-isolation-offense issue against Memphis was no mere hiccup. His attempt to take the older, shorter Zach Randolph in the closing minutes against Memphis was a big deal. It was—apologies for the vulgarity—the equivalent of basketball vomit to the refined palate of Kerr’s Warriors.

You saw the disgust in Curry’s depressed body language at the time that Durant dismissed him, and you heard it in Green’s ongoing admonishment of Durant after he settled for the jumper over Randolph.

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