CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was originally supposed to be Stephen Curry‘s night.
But instead, the night clearly belonged to Kevin Durant.
With Curry and Draymond Green sidelined with injuries, Durant stepped into the spotlight and led the Golden State Warriors to a 101-87 victory over the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center.
Durant notched his ninth career triple-double, finishing with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and seemingly taking the game into his own hands whenever he wished. He scored 16 points in the first quarter to set the tone as the Warriors led by as many as 26 in the first half.
Durant said it was a matter of everyone stepping up as Charlotte native Curry was out with a sprained ankle and Green was a late scratch with a sore shoulder. The Warriors also lost Zaza Pachulia early in the game with a shoulder injury.
“I think everybody just rallied around each other, from the coaches to the players to the trainers, everybody,” Durant said. “Everybody was encouraging on the bench. The coaches coached us up every possession. The defense was on point tonight and we got off to a good start.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr marveled at the play of Durant, especially under the circumstances.
“What a luxury to be able to just throw him the ball, especially with Steph out,” Kerr said. “He took over. It wasn’t really scripted, it was just a natural product of Steph being out, Draymond being out. I just liked his pace, his energy. He was attacking from the start. It was like a ‘I’ve got this’ type of thing.”
Durant shrugged off any desire to take over the game, but he liked the chance to be creative, which he certainly was.
“It’s fun when you get to create,” Durant said. “It’s fun to just be creative out there. Passing for the lob, or creating the jump shot — all the things you work on. It felt like tonight I was able to go to my bag of tools and pull some stuff out. I don’t expect it to be like that every single game but we set the tone early and after that I didn’t have to handle the ball that much.”
The Warriors (20-6) have now won five straight and seven of their last eight.
Kerr was especially happy with the Warriors’ defense, which held the Hornets to 35.1 percent shooting from the field. The Hornets shot just 31.5 percent in the first half, enabling the Warriors to lead by 48-22 midway through the second quarter and 53-38 at halftime.
“Our first-quarter defense was great,” Kerr said. “It set the tone right from the beginning. KD took over, but I thought as a team we did a great job of defending and getting us off to a good start.”
The Hornets (9-14) have now lost five of their last six.
“They have a lot of guys that can guard one through five, and they do a ton of switching,” Williams said. “I think that’s where they make it difficult on other teams. That’s where we struggled.”
Associate head coach Stephen Silas coached the Hornets for the second straight game with Steve Clifford out because of illness.
“Even without those other guys, they’re still pretty good,” Silas said of the Warriors. “Obviously with Durant and Klay it was hard to stop those guys tonight. I thought we started the game pretty slow. At the beginning of the second quarter we weren’t getting the ball moving and playing with the right pace. We finally got it going a little bit at the end of the second quarter with some pace, and that carried over to the third and fourth quarter. But those guys made big plays down the stretch. To hold that team to 101 points isn’t all bad.”
NOTES: The Hornets issued a statement Wednesday that said coach Steve Clifford would be away from the team “for the immediate future” to address health concerns. They did not identify the health issue. … Clifford missed time in 2013 to undergo a heart procedure, but published reports said his current issue is not heart-related. … The Warriors’ 125-115 win at New Orleans on Monday, when they rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit, made them the first team in the shot-clock era to rally from 20-point halftime deficits to win twice in the same season. They also rallied from 20 down to beat Philadelphia last month. … The Hornets were completely healthy for the first time all season. … The Hornets were coming off a 104-94 win over Orlando on Monday. … The Warriors were playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip. They will close out the trip on Friday at Detroit. … The Hornets were playing the second game of a four-game home stand. They will host Chicago on Friday, and the LA Lakers on Saturday.