Kevin Durant, who is still nursing a calf injury, will not be in uniform for the Golden State Warriors when they take the court Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Durant injured his leg on May 8 during the third quarter of Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets. The Warriors went on to win that game without Durant.
While Durant has been sidelines, the Warriors went on a five-game winning streak. They closed out the Rockets series without any problems. Then the Warriors swept the Portland Trailblazers in four games.
2019 NBA FINALS SCHEDULE:
Thursday, May 30 – Game 1 @ Toronto
Sunday, June 2 – Game 2 @ Toronto
Wednesday, June 5 – Game 3 @ Golden State
Friday, June 7 – Game 4 @ Golden State
Monday, June 10 – Game 5 @ Toronto **
Thursday, June 13 – Game 6 @ Golden State **
Sunday, June 16 – Game 7 @ Toronto **
** If necessary
With the extra rest, many Warriors fans hoped that Durant would be ready by the time the NBA Finals began this week.
The Toronto Raptors jumped out to a hot start with rookie coach Nick Nurse. They finished the season had the second-best record in the NBA behind Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Warriors had the best record in the West, but it was only good enough for third overall in the NBA. The Raptors hold home-court advantage over the Warriors.
KD Out Until?
The Warriors fly out to Toronto on Tuesday night. If Durant is on the plane, there’s a good chance he plays for Game 2. Obviously, if he does not fly to Toronto with the team, he will be out until Game 3.
“KD’s not playing Game 1,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “I think we already announced that, and we’ll see where it goes from here. This is where the fact that there’s a lot of days in between games during the Finals helps us. So, we’ll see.”
If Durant does not make the trip to Toronto and skips the first two games, he would have eight extra days of rest between now and Game 3, which is not scheduled until June 5.
Durant scored 30-plus in 7 games out of 11 postseason games this year. He had 22 points when he left Game 5 of the Western Semifinals prematurely. He also dropped 35-plus in three instances including a bombastic 50-point performance against the LA Clippers in the opening round.
Once Durant went down, the Splash Brothers stepped up. They finally busted out of their collective shooting funk in time to lead the Warriors to five wins without Durant. Steph Curry averaged 35.8 points per game since Durant’s calf injury. He has not scored below 33 points during that stretch. Curry hit 30 three-pointers and shooting at a 41.6 percent rate from downtown.
The Warriors thought they lost DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins for the rest of the season when he went down with a torn left quad in the second game of the playoffs. Cousins played just one full playoff game with the Warriors this season before he went down on April 15.
Cousins hoped he could be back by the NBA Finals, but he’s still questionable more than six weeks later.
“DeMarcus is making good progress right now,” said Kerr. “The timing of this whole thing is tricky because he misses two months. It always takes big guys longer to find their rhythm. The speed of their game is so fast.”
If this were still the regular season, Kerr could slowly integrate Cousins back into the lineup until he was able to play a full game again. However, it’s do or die in the NBA Finals. Kerr doesn’t have valuable minutes to burn, especially with Durant out.
Kevin Looney and the rest of the bench stepped up admirably when Durant and Cousins went down. Looney averaged only 6.3 points per game in the regular season. Since Durant went down, he nearly doubled his scoring output. Looney is averaging approximately 11 points per game in his last five games.
According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are 1/3 odds to three-peat. The Warriors are huge favorites to win the NBA championship for a third year in a row.
After knocking out the Bucks in six games, the Toronto Raptors are 5/2 odds to win the title. The Raptors come into Game 1 as a 1-point favorite.