SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Golden State Warriors gave another big example why they signed Kevin Durant during the offseason, and why others around the NBA were dismayed with the addition.
Durant had 38 points and 13 rebounds and the Warriors beat the Utah Jazz 102-91 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
The Jazz played their best game of the series and kept three All-Stars in relative check, but the former MVP put on a show.
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”That’s one of the reasons why we welcomed him here,” Warriors acting coach Mike Brown said. ”It’s tough to try to control a guy who’s 7 feet that can play out on the perimeter and have the ball. Especially when he’s as good as he is in the pick-and-roll game.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr did not travel with the team as he continues to deal with back issues. He was at Duke University on Friday seeing a specialist and owner Joe Lacob told Bloomberg Radio that Ker had a ”spinal cord leak” procedure on his back.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 7 for 29 from the field and 3 for 15 from 3-point range, leaving Durant to lead the Warriors.
The Jazz led 75-74 early in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors went on a 10-4 run and never trailed again. Curry and Durant hit back to back 3ss to give Golden State a 92-84 lead with 3:04 left.
”I’m going to try to say this as humble as I can, but I’ve been doing this for so long,” Durant said, ”and every time I get out the bed and we have a game that day, I feel like I can go out there and score. It’s the other things that I try to do – defensively, helping my teammates, get them open shots, moving, setting screens.
”Scoring and stuff is not easy, but it’s what I do the best. When I try to do the other things … I feel like it opens up my scoring a little bit more.”
Curry finished with 23 points on 6-for-20 shooting.
Gordon Hayward led Utah with 29 points. Rudy Gobert added 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Game 4 is Monday night in Utah.
”Myself and the other 19,000 people in the arena and everybody watching on TV saw the same thing I saw,” Curry said. ”It’s an easy decision to at that moment (to defer to Durant late). Try to set a screen for him and get him to the right spot and, obviously, he does the rest.
”We’re smart enough basketball players to know what’s going on at that moment and try to make the right decision and let a talented scorer like he is … let him do what he does.”
The Warriors got out to a quick start, again, and led by 10 after the first quarter.
Utah survived the first-half onslaught by Durant, who had 22 points and six rebounds at the break. There wasn’t much the Jazz could do to contend a flurry of turnaround fadeaways, drives to the basket and a pair of 3s. Golden State, however, didn’t get much help otherwise and Draymond Green dealt with foul trouble.
The Jazz took a 50-49 lead into halftime after closing the second quarter on a 12-5 run highlighted by Rodney Hood’s 3-pointer triple that gave the Jazz their first lead of the series at 48-47.
Green picked up a technical arguing from the bench late in the second quarter after being whistled for his third foul of the half. As the crowd roared, he gave a 2-0 hand gesture to indicate the series record.
The Jazz led by nine in the third quarter, but Curry began to warm up and hit his first 3-pointer of the game on a pull-up in transition. Golden State closed the quarter on a 19-8 stretch to take a 72-70 lead.
”You look at two of the best players in the game and you say they made some unbelievable shots that were timely,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ”That’s why they’re who they are.”
Warriors: Andre Iguodala played his 100th playoff game. … Curry is alone at No. 8 on the career playoff 3-pointers list (270), surpassing Chauncey Billups. He has hit at least one 3 in all 65 playoff games he’s played.
Jazz: Utah continued to have slow starts and shot just 28.6 percent and trailed by 10 at the end of the first quarter. … The Jazz’ first lead of the series came with 1:01 left in the second quarter, nearly 119 minutes. … Golden State was held under 106 points for the first time this postseason.
Jazz starting point guard George Hill missed his second consecutive game with a big toe injury. Utah hoped the extra rest would have him ready for Game 3, but he didn’t progress enough. Shelvin Mack started in his place.
”It is really just a question of his effectiveness,” Snyder said. ”There are situations in the game where he lands on it and pushes off and it just aggravates it. It aggravates it to a point where he’s just not able to be effective.”