BY MARKO UKALOVIC
When you need someone to finish a game for you, you only need to call Kevin Durant. The Golden State Warriors all world small forward scored 13 of his game leading (and season high) 49 points to overcome an 18-point deficit for a come from behind victory 116-110 over the Orlando Magic on Monday evening at Oracle Arena.
“Im just glad we stayed resilient,” said Durant after the game. “We were able to make plays down the stretch to win the basketball game on both ends. That’s what I’m proud of.”
Golden State (15-7) did not get off a good start as they opened shooting 30% from the field, including small forward Kevin Durant starting out 1-6, in the first six minutes of the game.
Orlando (10-11) transitioned well as Jonathan Simmons opened with back-to-back 3 pointes and the Magic used their size with center Nikola Vucevic to get some easy baskets inside the paint. The Montenegrin big man accounted for six points as the Magic jumped out to a 14-7 lead.
The Warriors closed out the first quarter on a strong note outscoring the Magic 19-11 to end the first 12 minutes with a 26-25 lead that included a 3-pointer by back up shooting guard Damion Lee. Durant led the Warriors with nine points and Klay Thompson chipped in eight.
Orlando would take advantage of Durant sitting on the bench to start the second quarter. They would go on a 14-6 run to take a 39-32 lead halfway through the first half. The shooting woes continued for Golden State as they shot 5 for 14 with under four minutes remaining. Durant led the Warriors with 20 points.
Terrance Ross scored 13 of his 16 first half points coming off the bench in the second quarter going 4 for 4 from beyond the arc, including a four-point play with just over three minutes remaining in the half. Even Vucevic also knocked down a 3-pointer as Orlando raced out to a 58-40 lead with just two minutes remaining.
Turnovers played a big part in the first half for the Warriors as they committed seven to go along with their poor shooting. They finished shooting 17 for 42 (40.5%) and were down 64-47 heading into the intermission.
“I thought tonight was one of the best games of the year”, said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “You could feel the energy in the crowd. You could the competitive desire from our players. You could feel it from our guys on the bench. Just huge energy.”
The Warriors began the second half on a 11-6 run to narrow the gap to 70-58 but sloppy play led to five turnovers and the Magic increased their lead to 79-62 with under five minutes left in the third quarter.
Quentin Cook did his best to bring the Warriors back, hitting back to back 3-pointers and finishing with eight points. Durant would get hot in the last four minutes of the quarter as he scored 16 points to get the Warriors back in the game. Thanks to their stingy defense they closed out the last four minutes on a 17-4 run, that included a possession where they obtained three offensive rebounds, to close the gap to 83-79 at the end of 36 minutes.
The highlight of the quarter was when Durant raced back on defense and made a spectacular rejection of Magic guard Evan Fournier’s breakaway layup that was on a 2-on-0 rush.
Three turnovers in the first two minutes of the final quarter led to five quick points for Orlando to go up 88-79 after a Mo Bamba 3-pointer.
The Warriors All-Stars then took command of the game as Thompson and Durant would help their team go on a 18-10 run in a four-minute span to bring Golden State to within 97-98 with 6:30 minutes remaining.
Andre Igoudala, who was quiet for most of the night, came up with a big steal on Vucevic that led to a Thompson 3-pointer that gave the Warriors their first lead since the first half at 102-100 with 5:17 left in the game.
The Warriors clamped down on defense the final two and a half minutes of the game as Durant scored 10 of his team’s final 11 points to seal the deal for the two-time defending champions. Durant’s final line was 49 points, nine assists, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Thompson scored 19 of his 29 points on 7 for 10 from the floor and 4 for 6 from 3-point land in the final frame.
“It really helps with what our crowd gave us tonight,” said Thompson. “The energy was great. (When) we cut it (the deficit) to 10 (points) and they were excited. I got some good looks. You see a couple go in and you feel like you can hit everything.”
Vucevic finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to lead Orlando. Ross added 28 points on 9 for 15 shooting including 4 for 6 from beyond the arc.
“It was hard to stop them. That’s why they’re such great players,” Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic said. “They made shot after shot at the end.”
Golden State carries the momentum of a three-game winning streak up to Toronto where they begin a five-game road trip taking on the Eastern Conference leading Raptors on Thursday where they will try for a ninth straight victory in the series and fifth in a row in Toronto.
GAME NOTES: Durant was plus-13 over 40 minutes of action. He has scored 125 points over past three games (41.7 per game) on 42-of-80 shooting (52.5 percent) from the field.
Durant became the seventh player in Warriors history to post consecutive 40-point games, along with Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Curry, Antawn Jamison, Purvis Short and Thompson, according to Elias.
Stephan Curry scrimmaged Monday and is scheduled to go through a full practice Tuesday, making it possible he could play Thursday at Toronto. “He might,” coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry was hurt Nov. 8 against the Bucks trying to contest a shot in transition by Eric Bledsoe.
San Jose native and Mitty High School alum Aaron Gordon began 0 for 6 then left in the third with lower back tightness and didn’t return. … The Magic are 2-2 on the road vs. the West. … Orlando hasn’t beaten the Warriors since Dec. 14, 2012, and not in Oakland since Dec. 3 that same year.