Many feared the worst for Kevin Durant when he exited Game 5 of the Warriors-Rockets playoff series with a non-contact lower leg injury. It turned out to be nothing worse than a strained calf, but Durant still has time to spend on the shelf. He missed Game 6 of the Rockets series and would have missed Game 7 if it was necessary. Now, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports Durant will definitely miss Game 1 and is “unlikely” to play Game 2 of the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals matchup against the Trail Blazers.
Durant’s availability will likely depend on how the series is going. If the Warriors take care of business at home and go to Portland up 2-0, Durant will take his sweet time recovering and be ready for the NBA Finals. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s shattering of the Rockets’ dreams in Game 6 is proof enough the Warriors can handle everything just fine without Durant.
It’s important to have Durant ready for the Finals above all else, but the longer he’s out, the more the Warriors must rely on their other stars. In a season where their bench mob has been lackluster (especially in the playoffs), Golden State’s “Big Four” of Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green have taken on a minutes responsibility they haven’t been faced with in their previous championship seasons. They don’t want to unnecessarily risk another Durant injury, but the quicker he comes back, the easier life is for Curry, who’s dealing with his own set of ailments and has a lengthy injury history. The Warriors probably won’t need Durant to beat the Trail Blazers, but their road will be a lot easier if he can go.