After fines were handed out to Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green, one would have thought that the Warriors would lay off the referees for a while. Well, that was definitely not the case on Tuesday night, as Durant was ejected early in the third quarter.
Sports Illustrated highlighted the moments surrounding KD's premature exit from Tuesday's 116-102 victory over the Denver Nuggets:
"After attempting a three-point shot with 8:21 left in the third quarter, Durant approached the official, unhappy with a non-call on what he believed was contact that should have resulted in three free-throw attempts.
Durant didn't back down, and after the verbal altercation, the official assessed him two technical fouls and ejected him from the game."
League sources and commentators have speculated that the "quick hook" given Durant by the official could be partially in response to the way the team — particularly Kevin Durant — has been acting toward officials in general, lately. One particular incident, as of late, happened last Friday night in Minnesota.
In the closing seconds of regulation, with the Warriors down by three points, KD was fouled while clearly in the act of shooting a three-pointer — which he made. Instead of heading to the free throw line with a chance to take the lead, Golden State was relegated to taking the ball out of bounds with less than five seconds remaining in regulation. Steph would go on to hit a difficult game-tying three, sending the game into overtime.
At the close of the extra period, tied 130-130, Minnesota was inbounding the ball with 0.5 seconds remaining. Center Karl-Anthony Towns cut toward the basket and Durant followed. As the inbounds pass sailed several feet over Towns' head, KD appeared to have tugged at his shorts, prompting the official to call a foul and send Towns to the free throw line. The Minnesota center subsequently stepped to the line, split the pair of free throws, and the Timberwolves upset the Dubs 131-130.
Multiple Warriors, including: Durant, Curry, Green, and coach Steve Kerr were livid immediately after the game and during their postgame interviews. Reporters asked for their feelings and characterizations of the on-court events surrounding the officiating, and they indulged to varying degrees. As a result, Durant ($15,000), Steph ($25,000), and Draymond ($35,000) each were fined for their comments critical of the NBA officiating crew.
Over the weekend, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBATV, and various other sports media networks and outlets were discussing at length whether the "grind" and stress of attempting a three-peat with so many superstars and media attention was finally getting to the defending champs. They noted the mounting technical fouls and ejections, team-wide, as proof that something has apparently gone sideways with the Bay's team. Most notably, Durant and Green have been hit with 16 techs apiece, each earning one ejection, while Boogie Cousins (only having played since January) rings in at seven techs and an ejection of his own. For his part, coach Kerr has also garnered several technical fouls from the bench and is no stranger to being ejected.
The question remains: is this something that is indicative of a deeper wound within this team? The Warriors' performance against the no. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets, Tuesday night, indicates that the collective struggle may actually be further galvanizing this team. The fact is, the media have been blowing every little tussle, argument, and off-season free agency rumor they get a whiff of severely out of proportion. This is just another in a series of reasons the major sports media outlets get to intrigue fans of the other 29 NBA teams, indulging their pipe dreams of the "evil empire" of the Golden State Warriors finally being broken. When the rubber meets the road, and the Dubs have to get a job done, they compete... and they win.
You see, Golden State was blowing out the superbly talented Nuggets, with the lead hovering around 20 points for most of the game. KD was balling, with 21 points and six assists, when he was ejected early in the third. Even after his early exit, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Cousins kept pouring it on. They embarrassed the Denver Nuggets at a time when all teams are attempting to ratchet up some momentum, heading into the playoffs. If that effort is any indication of what the Warriors are made of, fans can rest-assured knowing they will turn it on when the stakes are at their highest.
Photo of Draymond Green via Keith Allison/Wikimedia