- Kevin Durant will not play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
- Games 3 and 4 were targeted as possible return dates for Durant, and his injury has now lasted longer than anticipated.
- With legitimate doubts about Durant’s ability to return in the series, the Toronto Raptors now have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over an ailing, short-handed Warriors squad.
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Kevin Durant’s calf injury in the second round of the NBA playoffs is looking increasingly like a season-changing event for the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors announced on Thursday that Durant would not play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Earlier in the series, the Warriors said they were targeting Game 3 or Game 4 as a return date.
The injury, which was initially feared to be a torn Achilles before being revealed as a calf strain, has now kept Durant out for nine games. The Warriors never specified the exact injury, but after the injury occurred, they said he would be reevaluated in a week. A reevaluation doesn’t necessarily equate to a return, but there was a belief that Durant would be back at some point this postseason.
It’s unclear, however, if and when that will happen. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said early in the series that he did not want to play Durant without first going through a full practice. Kerr told reporters on Wednesday that he thought Durant would scrimmage on Thursday, a meaningful step in returning to action. Yet Warriors trainers did not feel Durant should scrimmage. Kerr said Durant had not had a setback.
The Warriors are expected to have Klay Thompson back in the lineup after sitting out Game 3 with a calf injury.
The Warriors’ backs are against the wall now. The Raptors hold a 2-1 series lead and have mostly looked like the better team in the series. Even in Game 2, the Warriors’ lone win, the Raptors held a double-digit lead before the Warriors came back in the second half. The Raptors nearly erased that lead in the game’s final minutes.
Game 4 is in Oakland, but there are signs of attrition among the Warriors. It’s unclear if Thompson will be 100% in his return. Stephen Curry played 43 minutes in Game 3 and appeared exhausted by the end, Andre Iguodala is playing through an injury, DeMarcus Cousins was seen leaving Game 3 with ice around his foot, and Center Kevon Looney’s status is unclear following a chest injury.
If the Raptors can beat an ailing Warriors squad in Game 4, it will put them on the brink of a championship with two home games still to come.
Even if Durant does return for Game 5 or Game 6, if necessary, there will be questions about his health and his rhythm. Being thrown into the middle of a Finals series is not easy. It will be even tougher if he’s then asked to defend and be defended by Kawhi Leonard.
The clock is ticking for the Warriors and Durant, and Game 4 looms in what could be a franchise-changing game for both teams.
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