OAKLAND - In the days leading up to the Western Conference first-round series against the Clippers, Steve Kerr had a stern warning for his team: Don't take the bait Patrick Beverley is serving.
As the series progresses, Durant and the Warriors will have to try to keep their emotions in check, and more importantly, not let Beverley get under their skin.
"He took the bait," Kerr said. "That's two technicals, your seventh one is a suspension in the playoffs. Whether you play four games or 24, seven in the magic number. He's got four to play with."
Each technical, which came within a minute span in the fourth quarter, involved some level of jawing. The first, which came with five minutes left in the fourth, involved a friendly back and forth.
Then, 19 seconds later, Durant, after guarding Beverley full court, fouled the guard, forcing him to the ground, then stood over Beverley, before referee Ed Malloy decided to eject both players.
"I got pushed, I got up, I got ejected," Beverley said. "I guess the refs saw something that I don't know but that's alright."
"That's what Beverley does," Kerr added. "We talked about it for the last couple of days. He's a hell of a defender. He plays hard. Got a lot of respect for him."
Durant and Beverley have history. They faced each other while in college during the 2006-07 season, Durant with Texas and Beverley with Arkansas. Durant went on to be the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, while Beverley was taken by the Lakers two years later in the second round, working his way into the NBA playing overseas, with brief stints in Greece, Ukraine and Russia before catching on with the Houston Rockets midway through the 2012-13 season.
In the 2013 Western Conference playoffs, Beverley, guarding Durant's then-teammate Russell Westbrook, reached for a steal as Westbrook was calling a timeout, inadvertently hitting the guard's knee, subsequently tearing Westbrook's meniscus, ending his season and the Thunder's title hopes. Still, it did little to stale the respect Durant has for the journeymen Clippers guard.
"Nah," Durant told NBC Sports Bay Area when asked if there was any ill will from the play. "I love Patrick Beverley."
"I've been playing against Pat Beverly since he was at Arkansas so I kind of know what he brings," Durant said minutes later in the postgame press conference. He's a Chicago kid, grew up and played in the Chicago area, so those dudes play with a different type of grit, so I can appreciate that about Pat. You know what he's going to bring to the table, just physically the mucking up the game a little bit with his physicality. That's what he brings to each team he plays on."
Throughout the game, Durant and Beverley seemed to have each other's attention. In the third quarter, after being called for a foul, Beverley mocked Durant after the forward flailed his arms as he took a step out of bounds following the whistle.
As for the play that got them toss, Durant seemed surprised both players earned an ejection.
"It was just - not friendly, but just trash talk, you know, its emotional play for him, so he's going to show his intensity after that play, and I respected it, and I'm sure everybody on the court did," Durant said. "But it was the same play for me coming back on the other end where I had an opportunity to bring some intensity to the arena, to the game, to my team and I thought it was a perfect time for me to do so, without resulting in a technical foul.
In an odd twist, Durant's ejection seemed to energize the Warriors - or at least one teammate in particular. Seconds after Malloy revealed his verdict, Draymond Green got in Durant's face, yelling words of encouragement as he escorted his teammate to the tunnel right behind the team's bench.
"There's always little things within the game, and so there's always stuff going on out there on the floor," Green said. "You know, meanwhile, K was 8 for 16 with 23 points. Pretty solid night, you know, at the office. That was good. I like to see people battle, and I love that."
Still, there's still the issue of Durant's technicals. In the postseason, a player needs seven to trigger an automatic suspension, no matter how far the player's team advances. With that in mind, Durant picking up two technicals in the first game isn't ideal for a team with title aspirations.
"I can control myself," Durant said.
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For the Warriors, the mantra for this series and beyond will be the same.
"Don't take the bait," Kerr said. "We took it, so you just can't do it. But sometimes you have to feel it before you can follow through and execute on that. So we're going to have to be really solid."