OAKLAND — Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant will miss Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday night in Houston with a calf injury, head coach Steve Kerr told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami.
“He’s not going to play Game 6,” Kerr told The Athletic after Durant sustained a right calf strain in Wednesday’s 104-99 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 5. “We can all pretend and say he’s doubtful, but he’s not playing Game 6.”
With 2:05 left in the third quarter of Game 5, Durant hit a 16-foot jumper on the right wing over Iman Shumpert, and then limped his way back up the court. During the ensuing time out, he headed up the tunnel to the locker room and did not return. By far Golden State’s best performer in the playoffs, the Warriors are now left to wonder whether their most dynamic weapon will come back from an injury that looked much worse.
“It’s not the Achilles,” Kerr said. “When I walked into the coach’s office after the game, the replay of the play was going on. I thought the same thing because he kind of looked back like he had been kicked or something. I’ve seen that before with guys who have hurt their Achilles. That was my first question. I was assured it’s a calf strain, not the Achilles.”
Many — including Kerr — had initially thought that Durant had torn his right Achilles, though the team announced during the fourth quarter that an exam had revealed a strained calf. Durant will undergo an MRI on Thursday morning, and is uncertain to travel with the team to Houston. Staying back in the Bay Area would allow Durant to begin rehabilitation immediately.
Without Durant in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, Golden State reverted to an offense dominated by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, an offense they used to win an NBA title and to win a league-record 73 games. While that worked for the fourth quarter, and while the prospect of losing Durant for any length of time may be a preview of what the Warriors will look like if he leaves in free agency, it’s not something the Warriors are eager to practice for any duration in the midst of a hard-fought playoff series.
Golden State beat the Rockets on March 13 with Durant out, but at the time, they had a full-strength DeMarcus Cousins, who abused Clint Capela for 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, while pulling down eight rebounds and dishing otu seven assists. Cousins went down early in Game 2 of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. While he’s made progress in coming back from a quad tear, his return would likely come in the NBA Finals.
Over the course of the series, Durant had been able to navigate a physical Rockets defense with ease, averaging 36 points while shooting 46% from the floor and 48% from 3-point range. In 10 playoff games this year leadinginto Wednesday, the two-time NBA Finals MVP has averaged 35.4 points, 5.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game, shooting 51.8% from the field and 42.9% from 3-point range, and he had 22 points through 32 minutes in Game 5 before going down.
“We have to play differently because he’s such a huge part of what we do,” Kerr said. “He’s been on this incredible playoff run.”
That said, Golden State is 26-1 (during the regular season) without Durant during his three seasons with the team. With Durant out in the playoffs, though, the shortened bench and rotations will be thrown into flux. It likely means more minutes for the 35-year old Andre Iguodala and others.
“It’s tough to replace the output that KD has been doing this whole entire playoff run,” Curry said. “What Jonas [Jerebko] was able to do when he came in, [Alonzo McKinnie] is going to have an opportunity, what Kevon [Looney] did for us in the minutes down the stretch in the fourth quarter were huge. Everybody is going to need to be ready.”
Kerr said that the fourth-quarter lineup he put on the floor — with Looney at center, along with Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Draymond Green — is likely the one he’ll play without Durant.
Looney had a breakout game after posting a minus-7.6 over the first four games of the series. In 22 minutes, Looney scored just five points, but pulled down nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, and was a plus-5. Jerebko came off the bench for five minutes and hit a crucial three at the start of the fourth quarter to break a 72-72 tie.
“[Looney] took two shots all game, but had a huge impact with the offensive boards, made a couple big free throws down the stretch,” Kerr said. “Loon is not a 35-, 38-minute guy. Don’t expect that with Kevin out. He’s going to play a big role.”