OAKLAND — Warriors forward Kevin Durant will not play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals due to a strained right calf, head coach Steve Kerr announced on Thursday. Guard Klay Thompson — who sat out Wednesday’s Game 3 with a hamstring strain — will return.
Durant, who has been out of action since injuring himself in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Houston, was expected to get some scrimmage work in on Thursday with Golden State’s younger players.
Kerr said he “misspoke” last night about Durant being able to scrimmage, and that he still has another hurdle to clear before he’s cleared for on-court contact.
”There was no setback,” Kerr said. “I was hoping today would be the day he’d get back on the floor. It’s not going to be today. It’s going to be tomorrow or next couple days.”
Kerr said last week in Toronto that it was “feasible” for Durant to return to game action after one practice, provided he was pain free. Durant has been doing individual shooting workfor about a week, and traveled with the team to Toronto for Games 1 and 2, providing advice and helping to break down video as he was receiving treatment from the team’s training staff.
While Golden State has gone 30-3 without Durant (in games where they still have Stephen Curry) over the last three seasons, not having either Durant or Thompson in Game 3 proved to unravel the Warriors’ rhythm and flow on both ends of the floor, as the Toronto Raptors pushed the tempo with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, got a 3-point barrage from Kyle Lowry and Danny Green, and attacked an uncertain DeMarcus Cousins with an aggressive Marc Gasol.
“That would suck if Kevin can’t come back,” Thompson said, when asked about the possibility that Durant may not return for the rest of the Finals. “I still think we’d have a good chance to win the Finals, but obviously, that takes a huge hit. I don’t think it would make us the clear-cut favorite anymore without him. This team (Toronto) is very good.”
While the two-time Finals MVP is out, Thompson will provide welcome relief on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Before injuring his leg coming down from a 3-point attempt late in the fourth quarter in Game 2, he scored a game-high 25 points against the Raptors. He’s also one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, holding CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard in check in the conference finals, and Chris Paul and James Harden in the conference semifinals. He held Toronto star Kawhi Leonard to just 2-of-4 shooting on 44 possessions over the first two games of the Finals.
“He guards the best players on the perimeter, for the most part, and offensively he spaces the court out, great complement to Steph,” said guard Shaun Livingston.
Kerr has regularly called Thompson the best two-way guard in the league, and his teammates have agreed.
“He’s one of the best two-way players in the history of the league,” guard Quinn Cook said after Game 3.
“Adding Klay back to the fold is always going to make a difference, the way Klay pressures the ball, the way he flies around on the defensive end,” former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green said on Thursday. “That makes a big difference.”
Thompson, said Stephen Curry, begged to play on Wednesday. He’d played through a high ankle sprain last year in the Finals, and in 2015, played in the immediate aftermath of a concussion and an ear laceration. A hamstring, though, can easily be exacerbated by the slightest wrong movement, meaning Thompson would have been lost for more games, if not the rest of the series.
“There’s always debates in every line of work,” Thompson said. “You’re going to come to debates with your fellow employees, and we had some good ones yesterday.”
Missing Game 3 and getting two more days of recovery before Game 4 made more sense, team trainer Rick Celebrini told Kerr, Thompson and general manager Bob Myers in a Wednesday meeting hours before the game. Thompson reluctantly agreed.
When asked how exactly he can impact Game 4, Thompson said: “By doing what I do, and that’s getting buckets and getting stops.”