Two-time reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant injured his right calf after pulling up for a jump shot along the right baseline during the third quarter. While the initial thought was that he injured his Achilles, the prognosis turned out to be not as serious as Durant was ruled with a right calf strain. Still, the defending champs , and possibly a lot longer.
Considering Game 5 was tied at 72-all through three quarters, one would have to assume that the Warriors would end up folding without arguably the best player in the game today, right?
Not so fast. Stephen Curry, the guy many had written off after a rough ending to Game 3, stepped up in a major way, scoring 20 of his 25 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter alone. Not bad for a guy who didn’t score his first basket until a few minutes remained in the first half and opened the game just 1-of-5 from the field.
So what exactly was the Warriors’ mindset following what should have been a discouraging injury after Durant’s right calf strain? Curry summarized it perfectly following the win:
“We all looked at each other. There were a couple smiles in terms of what that meant for us as a team — the guys that were going to need to step up in those moments,” Curry said to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
No one stepped up more than Curry. Head coach Steve Kerr gave the two-time MVP thefollowing the team’s gutsy win.
“Steph just went into a different mindset,” Kerr said. “Kind of reminded me of four, five years ago before we had Kevin, we were heavily dependent on Steph generating a lot of our offense back then. He doesn’t have as big of a burden on his shoulders now. He’s fully capable of taking that burden when necessary. Tonight it was necessary in the fourth quarter.”
It wasn’t just Curry that stepped up — Draymond Green also converted on a clutch 3-pointer in the closing minutes of the game to go along with drawing a key offensive foul on Chris Paul with 3:39 remaining in the game. Furthermore, Kevon Looney made his impact felt with several key hustle plays while Andre Iguodala played stifling defense on James Harden, holding the reigning MVP to just five points in the final period.
Considering Game 6 will take place on Friday at the Toyota Center in Houston, not having Durant could set up a do-or-die Game 7. We’ll see if Durant can return by then, but the whole injury sets up a similar narrative to last season in which one of the Rockets’ star players, Paul, missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals due to a hamstring injury. The Rockets would end up losing both of those games after taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 having taken place on the road and Game 7 at home. That’s the same predicament facing the Warriors right now — with Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at home — assuming Durant misses both remaining games of the series due to injury.
While Durant will undergo an official MRI to determine the severity of his injury on Thursday, the Warriors will likely have to close out this series without their star player — which means that the “other guys” are going to have to step it up yet again.