“I wouldn’t say that he has an advantage,” Durant said after the morning shootaround before Game 2 on Tuesday night. “I think everybody, once they get into the lane, they use little tricks to try to get their shots off. I don’t think he’s any different.
“He may bump guys off going to the rim, but everybody does that. I wouldn’t say that he’s found a way to … cheat the rules. I wouldn’t say that. I just think that he has his style of play. It might not be what everybody likes to see, but it’s been effective. And I don’t think he’s been cheating the game at all.”
Golden State leads the series 1-0 after a 104-100 win on Sunday.
After Game 1, much was made of Harden’s ability to initiate contact from a defender with the way he sometimes jumps forward after releasing a shot. Warriors coach Steve Kerr opened his news conference Monday by flopping on a reporter — a shot at how Harden and the Rockets try to induce a whistle from the officials.
Though Durant understands the conversation surrounding the series has been engulfed by questions about officiating, he brushed off the notion that Harden was breaking the rules of the game.
“I don’t think he does that,” Durant said. “I think he plays inside the game, plays within the rules of the game. S— happens. I think referees aren’t going to be perfect all game — just like players aren’t — so I think more so than just the talk of calls or officiating, it should be about how great all of these players are on the court. How they uniquely bring something different to the table. It’s been a fun last couple of days.”
The spotlight on foul calls will intensify heading into Game 2, as official Scott Foster will be part of the officiating crew at Oracle Arena. Foster, who has been an NBA official for 25 years, has not worked a game involving the Rockets since Feb. 21, when Harden fouled out against the Los Angeles Lakers. Afterward, Harden said Foster shouldn’t officiate Rockets games anymore.
“I think both teams are going to try and play their best tonight,” Durant said. “I think the officials are going to try to ref the best game that they can ref. That’s all we can ask for going forward. I think that’s what will dominate this series: just how great both these teams are.”
Durant, who has known Harden since they played together as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, said Harden has “always been clever” at getting into the paint and putting pressure on the defense, something the Warriors expect to see going into Game 2. They just want to try to stay in front of him as much as possible.
“Just try to get a good contest,” Durant said. “We practice contest and closeouts. We’ve been practicing that stuff since we were in elementary, you know what I’m saying. So there’s a certain way that we tend to contest shots, close out on shooters. So it’s not just James, it’s all their guys we got to have proper technique on. Make sure we are out there on the catch. Making sure they see a hand once they get up and shoot the ball. Just having proper technique, I think, is the most important thing, no matter who is in front of you.”