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Durant’s homecoming is complete with ‘walk-off’ victory

Warriors forward wraps up productive two days with game-high 32 points

A perfect homecoming for Kevin Durant was capped with him doing something that hadn’t happened during his last two visits to Washington, D.C.

He was able to walk off the court Wednesday night after the Golden State Warriors’ 109-101 win over the Washington Wizards, as opposed to limping.

To sum up his two days since arriving in town early Tuesday:

  • Durant and his teammates toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture with kids from his hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland.
  • Durant attended a ceremony in the place he grew up to officially announce his $10 million donation to start an educational program that will go into effect in the fall.
  • Durant dropped a game-high 32 points on the Wizards to help his team to its fourth straight victory since the All-Star break.

You’d think he’d be happy, right?

“I’m glad we won, but I could have shot the ball better,” said Durant, who had a stat line of 12 makes on 20 attempts. “I thought I played OK. It felt good to get through the whole game.”

In his final game played in D.C. as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant left the game at halftime after spraining his knee. And exactly a year ago he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain that cast a dark cloud over the Warriors’ chances at a title as he missed 19 games, returning with just three games left in the regular season.

Durant’s been healthy and dominant for most of this season, averaging 25.9 points a game, second on the team to Stephen Curry.

Both Durant and Curry are having seasons that are MVP-worthy. But neither appears at the top of the many MVP tracking lists in the race for the award that appears to be James Harden’s to lose.

“Kevin will be in the conversation, whatever that means,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “He’s going to be a top-five guy every single year.”

Not that you’ll hear any complaints from Durant (unlike Harden, who, after Curry won the award in 2015, told NBA.com, “I am the best player in the league. … I know I was the MVP.”)

Asked about his chance to win the award, Durant laughed. “I’m not in this for the awards,” Durant said. “I’m just out there to get better as a player.”

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 28 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

And the Warriors are looking to get better as a team. It’s not that their 48-14 record isn’t good. It’s just not good enough to take the top seed and home-court advantage through the Western Conference playoffs if the season were to end today, as the Houston Rockets hold a slight lead (47-13) over the second-place Warriors.

Even the Warriors acknowledge that the challenge presented by the Rockets this year feels different.

“Yes, because they [win] in a different way,” Curry said. “They’ve adopted the Power Three game and try to use that as a main weapon. Honestly, we know they’re playing well. We’re chasing the No. 1 seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing.”

Curry said he’s heard all the chirping from the Rockets, who’ve been vocal in claiming they’re the best team in basketball this season.

“What are they supposed to say?” Curry said. “We were saying the same thing when we were chasing our first championship. I would be seriously concerned if they were saying anything different.”

The Warriors might be seriously concerned if they weren’t playing good basketball. But that’s not the case, as the team has been solid all season, led by the Big Four of Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, backed by a talented, athletic bench that makes it difficult to bet against this team in a seven-game series.

And Durant, against the Wizards, showed why he’s a true unicorn, as he balanced his ability to easily shoot over shorter defenders to nail important 3-pointers with attacking the rim, resulting in a few power dunks.

“When you got KD going out on the break,” said Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who was held scoreless until midway through the third quarter, “those are easy points for them.”

For Durant, the few days in D.C. were complete even though they didn’t include a White House visit. Asked after the game whether he ever dreamed as a kid about visiting the White House to be celebrated as a champion, Durant quickly shot down that theory.

“I dreamt about putting that work in, tasting champagne and celebrating with my teammates,” Durant said. “I didn’t think about the White House, no matter who was in there.”

He does think about the people from home who’ve followed him throughout his career, supporting him from the time he was a tall, lanky middle school baller who had to be urged to shoot to the scoring machine who has the Warriors seeking their third title in four years. Those supporters showed up Wednesday night wearing Golden State jerseys and T-shirts, throwing their full support behind the hometown star.

“They support me no matter what arena I’m playing in,” Durant said. “To have them here, up close and personal, is pretty cool.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.