Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (R) is greeted by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (L) after Durant scored a three point jumper against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of the NBA basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena in Oakland on January 6, 2017. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Lanky legged Kevin Durant still somehow fools people with his strength and first step. He did it in the fourth quarter of Monday's loss to the Miami Heat with just seconds remaining in the contest at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Golden State Warriors forward took a pass on the baseline, shot-faked his defender, then plunged toward the rim, banging in the basketball while pulling on the iron. His dunk tied the contest 102-102 with just 11 seconds remaining. Durant's former teammate, Dion Waiters, ended the game seconds later with a 3-pointer.
While the loss was tough, the ending prompts a question: Who is the closer for the Warriors? Durant, a superstar before arriving in Oakland as a free agent this offseason, looks to already be the leader of the team. But it's during these tight contests that you see him barking at another former MVP, Steph Curry.
Is Steve Kerr's team so unselfish that it needs no 'alpha?' Or is that the Bay Area's best-kept secret this season? Nevertheless, a 'good problem to have' is still a problem. Who gets the ball for the final shot with just a few ticks on the clock? Do you give it to a four-time scoring champion, or one of the best pure shooters that the league has ever seen? On Monday, Curry had the last heave with 0:00.6 seconds remaining. It only found air.
"It's a tough loss," Curry said after the game. "It doesn't affect the big picture of what we are trying to do. You understand that we're gonna lose games as we go through the rest of the year, but the way that we lost tonight wasn't right. So we have to look at that going into Charlotte on Wednesday. Everything else, we've shown a lot of bright spots and we're going to continue to improve."
Curry hit 3-of-9 3-point attempts, netting 21 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. Durant scored a team-high 27 points, but needed 23 field goal attempts to get there. Klay Thompson chipped in 22 points.
"We make the right reads," Curry said. "We got a lot of open shots because I was able to get into the paint and draw some attention. Guys were finishing around me. Other times when I don't have the ball, guys were playmaking as well. Being aggressive, but just making the right play because we have so many options. Usually something good will happen as long as you take care of the basketball."
Durant is the Warriors player garnering the MVP talk this time around. He's averaging 26 points and a career-best 8.6 assists per game. After leading the NBA in scoring last season, Curry is averaging 24.6 points per game.
"I don't think either one of us look at it as being the star of this team," Durant said. "I think that's what makes it easier to play together and we are just out there trying a good brand of basketball and trying to have fun...Play off of each other, use each other. You need your teammates if you want to be successful. We realize that and it just makes it easy."
"He [Curry] has no ego. It's really unbelievable. How big he is as a person, as a player, and to not really care about stuff that everybody else cares about outside our group is pretty remarkable. It's different. When you see people like that."
Durant's circumstances are certainly "different" this season than his former sidekick Russell Westbrook's. While the eight-time All-Star can pick and choose his spots and bench his ego, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard has to fuel his team on a nightly basis. But don't let the Warriors' abundance of stars make you think that it's not in for another late season meltdown. Kerr says the Warriors were like a "finished product" at this time last year. Durant said he knows what the missing ingredient is.
"We need experience," Durant said. "We got everything we need here as far as personnel. Just experience. Tonight was an NBA loss on a Monday. I'm not going to panic over it."
The Warriors [38-7] face the Charlotte Hornets at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Spectrum Center. The Heat [15-30] battle the Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Barclays Center.