Just like the last trip to Toronto, Kevin Durant did indeed accompany the Golden State Warriors over the border for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Unlike Golden State’s first six days abroad, though, this time, Durant will actually practice.
“He’s going to practice with us today, and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players,” head coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “We’ll gauge it from there.”
Durant, who has not played since suffering a right calf strain in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, started to get shots up last week, but was not yet cleared for any contact work or scrimmage activities. Getting him back, even in a limited capacity, for Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena, could go a long way toward sending the series back to Oakland.
“What he’s going to do today he hasn’t done,” Kerr said on Sunday. “He’s doing more today and then we’ll know more after that.”
Shortly before Game 4 in Oakland, the Warriors closed the court to media for half an hour, and the newly-returned Kevon Looney said that it was not for him. There have been rumors that it was to work out Durant, but Kerr declined to answer questions about that.
Sunday will be the first time Durant has worked out with other players on the court since sustaining the injury. A week ago, Kerr said it was “feasible” that Durant could play after just one practice, provided he was pain free. Without Durant, Golden State was able to split the first two games of the series in Toronto, but sat Klay Thompson (hamstring) in Game 3 and lost, then dropped Game 4 to fall into a 3-1 series hole, their first such deficit since the 2016 Western Conference Finals, which they went on to win.
“Injuries are the hardest part of sports,” said Thompson, who was about 80% for Game 4, and hopes to be at 100% for Game 5. “You just got to play through them — not play through them, but manage the injury. It’s tough. I mean, I went through it. Kevin’s is much more serious than all of ours, and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around.”
This postseason, Warriors were able to sweep Portland in the Western Conference Finals without Durant largely becasue the Trail Blazers were lucky to be there, and were clearly overmatched. They got there by beating Houston in in Game 6 of the semis on adrenaline. Without Durant, a deep and experienced Toronto team has shown no fear of the two-time defending champions, going up 3-1 in the Finals.
“The game plan changes if Kevin is out there or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff. That’s true all regular season you deal with that, so you’re constantly adapting and adjusting according to who is available.”
Before Durant went down, he’d been having one of the best postseasons of his career. In 39.1 minutes per game, he was shooting 51.3% from the field and 41.6% from three, pulling down 5.2 rebounds, dishing out 4.9 assists, recording a career-high 1.2 steals per game and scoring a career-high 34.2 points per game.
Beyond the scoring, his absence on defense has been felt keenly as Golden State tries to contend with Kawhi Leonard’s midrange shooting and perimeter game, as well as the rangy Pascal Siakam.
Game 5 tips off at 6 p.m. Pacific on ABC.