The good news for Warriors fans: An MRI this afternoon confirmed that Kevin Durant’s scary-looking non-contact injury Wednesday night was actually a right calf strain. The last time Durant strained his calf, he was only out for a week, which means he could return in the playoffs and should be healthy when he hits free agency this summer.
Now, the bad news: The Warriors have to beat the Rockets once more without the only consistent scorer they’ve had in this ugly series. Houston has done a tremendous job of constricting the Warriors’ space and denying them the room they need to get their offense flowing, but they haven’t done much at all to slow down Durant. He’s scored 33.2 points a night in the conference semifinals, and he’s done it despite the pesky defense of P.J. Tucker, who can best be described as Patrick Beverley but bigger. On the other side of the court, whenever Durant was on James Harden, his length was pretty effective at hindering the Rockets’ scorer.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team’s played with rocks in their shoes. Before finally waking up last night, Klay Thompson was averaging 15 a night, while Steph Curry has hit less than 30 percent of his threes throughout the series. The bench was already thin without DeMarcus Cousins to lean on, and only Kevon Looney has shown himself to be anything other than a pure disaster. Shaun Livingston sucks now. Durant’s improbable scoring has been the Warriors’ piton throughout the last three playoffs, and for the first time since the infamous 2016 NBA Finals, the team will be unable to rely on it.
The solution is simple, but also not: Curry and Thompson have to show up. It’s a tough ask to demand that the Warriors revert to the pass-happy flow offense they ran before Durant arrived, but keeping pace with Houston will be impossible unless both Curry and Thompson score consistently. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Looney cannot carry the load. History favors a 3-2 lead, and Golden State played admirably after Durant went down last night. It’ll be tough, but the Warriors have won without Durant before.