- The Golden State Warriors trail the Toronto Raptors 3-1 in the NBA Finals after losing Game 4 on Friday.
- Kevin Durant has yet to suit up in the Finals as he recovers from a calf injury, and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the vibe around the Warriors has changed during Durant’s absence.
- According to Windhorst, the Warriors seem deflated by Durant’s prolonged absence, and there may be concerns about the severity of the injury and whether Durant will return in this series.
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The Golden State Warriors lost Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, 105-92, and now trail the series 3-1, on the verge of losing the series.
Lingering over the series has been Kevin Durant’s calf injury. Durant injured his calf in the second round of the playoffs and still has not returned. Games 3 and 4 in Oakland were set as possible return dates at the beginning of the Finals, and to the surprise of many, Durant on Thursday was ruled out of Game 4.
The Warriors have looked inferior to the Raptors for much of the series, and certainly, they have missed the presence of Durant, perhaps the best offensive player in the NBA, if not the best overall player in the entire league.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, as Durant’s injury lingers, the vibe around the Warriors has changed.
“When Durant first got hurt, there was a sense of excitement and wonder and ‘We can do this’ [around the Warriors],” Windhorst told Scott Van Pelt on “SportsCenter” after Game 4. “That has worn away.”
Windhorst said he was uncertain if the change in mood was directed at Durant or simply frustration about Durant’s prolonged absence. Windhorst said he believed the Warriors were expecting Durant to practice on Thursday before Game 4 and suit up on Friday, and that his inability to play affected the mood.
“When he wasn’t able to do that, it was a setback.”
The Warriors have not diagnosed Durant’s injury beyond a calf strain. When Durant initially got hurt, many feared it was a torn Achilles, because of the way Durant came up hobbling and looked back at his leg. Though the Warriors said it was not an Achilles injury, Windhorst said he believes that a prolonged calf injury may lead to concerns about an Achilles injury. Though he noted he was simply “speculating” about the Achilles, that the Warriors held back Durant, even in a perilous situation against the Raptors, suggests the risk of hurting Durant further is worse than losing the game.
Windhorst described Durant as simply not ready to play.
“Durant just isn’t ready,” Windhorst said. “His body is not ready. The trainers don’t believe it, he doesn’t believe it. He tried to do some stuff at practice yesterday – it didn’t work. Frustration all around, I’m sure from Kevin, about it.”
As Windhorst noted, even with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the lineup, the Warriors need more firepower. The question now is if Durant will be able to provide it at all.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters he would not continue to provide updates on Durant, saying he would only say if Durant was playing when the time comes. There are two days off before Game 5 in Toronto on Monday, but given Windhorst’s report, it’s fair to wonder if Durant will be ready to play by then.
Even if Durant is able to play, whether it’s in Game 5 or Game 6 (if the Warriors can extend the series), it’s also fair to wonder how effective he’ll be. Not only has he not played in a month, he’ll be thrown into a high-tension situation, facing a long, swarming Raptors defence and Raptors offence that has now found its groove in recent games.
The big question beyond the Finals is whether Durant has played his last game for the Warriors. That’s yet to be determined, of course, but the Finals, thus far, have shown that Durant is indeed a critical piece to this Warriors team, and no, they are not better without him.
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