The time for the Golden State Warriors to put up or shut up is one week away. The team got Kevin Durant back Saturday and he shook off the rust and put on a great show as the defending Western Conference champs took out the New Orleans Pelicans 123-101.
Durant scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added six assists in the win. He was just 6-for-15 from the field and did not make any of his four three-point shots. Nonetheless, the Warriors are charged up for a deep playoff run and are on a collision course with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a trifecta of NBA Finals not seen since the prime rivalry years of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Last year, whether you want to call it an excuse or not, the Warriors were hurt by not having a 100-percent healthy Stephen Curry. The ankle injury he suffered hindered him completely in the playoffs and it showed. The Warriors did not really have a backup shooter to match what the unanimous MVP could do on the scoreboard. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green did not take it to the next level.
Should the same thing happen, Golden State will have Durant. The Thunder expatriate has not thrived at a level that earned him an MVP, but fit comfortably enough to help the Warriors back into the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and in a prime spot to win his first ring.
Leading the Warriors with 31 minutes is a terrific sign. He will get his legs back under him and he will be ready for the playoffs. He seemed to mostly be passed the Grade 1 MCL sprain and bone bruise in his knee. He seemed ready to help lead the Warriors again. And he seemed determined to get back to the finals and prove all of the doubters wrong.
Watch out. The Warriors may leave a trail of blood in its path to the promised land come June.