TORONTO — Kevin Durant gave all the critics who questioned whether he was putting his pending free agency ahead of his will to help the Warriors win a third straight NBA title their pound of flesh. With the Warriors trailing the Raptors 3-1, he returned from a month-long absence for Game 5, scored 11 first-quarter points and then suffered what one NBA source told Newsday is a likely Achilles tear that might cost him at least part of the 2019-20 season.
Inspired by Durant’s example before he went down with 9:46 left in the second quarter, his teammates pulled out a 106-105 victory Monday night at Scotiabank Arena to send the series back to Oakland for Game 6 Thursday night in what will be the last game the Warriors play at Oracle Arena. It was the least they could do for a man some reports said had “frustrated” his teammates by taking so long to return from a right calf injury.
The Warriors returned to the Bay Area Tuesday afternoon, but Durant flew to New York, where he underwent an MRI examination. According to the NBA source, Durant’s injury initially was diagnosed as a torn Achilles, but results of the MRI were expected to reveal whether it is a full tear or a partial tear. The Warriors were not expected to announce the results until Wednesday after a review by their medical team Tuesday night.
Looking ahead to Game 6 and the emotional atmosphere they are sure to encounter at Oracle Arena, Steph Curry said the Warriors will embrace “the opportunity to play for [Durant] and to honor the sacrifice he made in terms of putting his body on the line tonight. I would like to say I would guarantee the win, but who knows how it’s going to end up . . . At the end of the day, I’m still heartbroken for a guy that gave everything he had for us.”
Curry said the Warriors’ response to Durant’s injury showed what kind of team it takes to reach five straight NBA Finals and win three of the past four seasons. “I don’t feel like we need to prove anything anymore,” Curry said. “It’s just about can we get the job done or not. I think we’re done with proving people wrong or making bold statements with our play. People know who we are.”
Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers was in tears when he delivered news of the Achilles injury to the media. Asked if the original calf injury was related to the Achilles injury, Myers said, “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know how those are related or not, but it’s a different injury.”
Whether Durant suffered a full or a partial Achilles tear, it will have a profound impact on his free agency. Durant was set to exercise his player option to become a free agent and would be eligible for a starting salary of $38.2 million. Both the Knicks and Nets were considered among his leading suitors, but if he expects to spend the next year rehabbing, Durant may well opt in for the final year of his contract valued at $31.5 million.
Reacting to criticism that was directed at Durant earlier in the Finals, an emotional Myers said, “I know Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes, but he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t. I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him.”
Klay Thompson said the example Durant set was inspiring. “You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there,” Thompson said. “I feel so bad for him and his camp. I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.”
After Durant suffered his original calf injury on May 8 during the second-round game against the Rockets, the Warriors kept winning, and some commentators said they might be better without Durant. Thompson’s emotion was obvious when he addressed Durant’s critics.
“This man was the Finals MVP back to back, so all those talking heads who say we’re better without him, that’s just ludicrous,” Thompson said. “That’s crazy. This is the best player in the world. You could put him on the 30th best team in the league, and that team would make the playoffs.
“With him, we are, I believe, one of the greatest teams to ever play. He’s a warrior. He sacrificed his health for us, and we dearly miss him.”
The Warriors star will have an MRI on Tuesday and it's possible he will be out into next season. Kevon Looney is also out for the rest of these NBA Finals.Raptors looking to match Warriors' emotion in Game 6
The series heads back to Oakland for Game 6 on Thursday with Toronto leading 3-2.Warriors stay alive in NBA Finals with Game 5 victory
The Raptors still lead the series 3-2, but the Warriors have lost Durant, prompting Steve Kerr to say: 'An incredible win and a horrible loss.'