“It’s not like I’m new to the hype around the game,” Durant said. “Every time I’ve played against LeBron James, it’s been a huge game.”
The head-to-head matchup is lopsided. Including those Finals, LeBron is 17-4 career against Durant’s teams. But the statistics have been relatively even. Both average right around 30 points on right around 50 percent shooting against each other. LeBron has historically been better, but the matchup and cheap jerseys and talent discrepancy is close, which, for the Warriors, is a massive upgrade from the past.
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Butler was averaging 18.8 points per game in the last five including Washington, and 19.7 in the previous 10. He was shooting 38 percent in those last 10 and shooting 30 percent or lower in three of the previous seven games. Still, Butler is on course for a third consecutive All-Star game appearance and was selected by the NBA for overseas reporters as one of the featured players for Christmas Day. Butler answered questions from reporters from Spain, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, England, Argentina, Africa, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. He got some of the same questions he’s been asked about the irritating inconsistent tendencies of the Bulls.
“Our team is very different this year than last, but I like the group of guys that we have and I’m fine with the role that I’m in now,” Butler said. “I think it’s a learning curve for me every single day; just like it is for everybody else this year. And then I’ve still got young guys that I have to try to mold and try to teach them what it takes to get on the level of Dwayne Wade, of (Rajon) Rondo and how to win. I think that’s my job.
Kevin Durant wasted no time in this coming-out of sorts in showing those who’d yet to properly pay attention that he kicks the Warriors to a new offensive level. The thin man scored 36 points to shoulder his new team’s load, but got drawn into the intensifying rivalry when he couldn’t get off a shot at the game’s end. Did Richard Jefferson step on him without a whistle? “I fell,” Durant said, “and I don’t fall on my own.”
LeBron James was as fierce and relentless as ever, at one point spotting the nine other men on the court a head start the other way – he had fallen across the baseline on a drive to the hoop – yet racing back in time to obliterate a layup attempt by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia.
Steph Curry was an afterthought, a flickering light in a season that’s already gone dim for him, 32 games in.
Curry was one part decoy, one part bystander while Durant handled the star duties and Klay Thompson filled in as the Warriors’ second-best offensive option. Irving and Kevin Love from the other team played bigger roles than Curry, the two-time, reigning and first-ever unanimous MVP during his remarkable run the past two seasons.
Green was on the airplane in New York headed to San Francisco on Thursday morning when his son, Draymond Jamal Green , was born. He recalls yelling from his first-class seat on the commercial airplane after the birth and people thought he was “crazy,” adding it was a “surreal experience.”