Countdown for Durant’s return ticks louder for Warriors

Durant suffered a calf injury during Game Five of the Western Conference semi-finals three weeks ago. — Reuters pic
Durant suffered a calf injury during Game Five of the Western Conference semi-finals three weeks ago. — Reuters pic

TORONTO, May 31 — The countdown for Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant’s possible return to the lineup from injury ticks even louder after the two-time defending champions dropped the first game of the NBA Finals yesterday.

The Warriors, making their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, are not about to panic given it is a best-of-seven games series but the absence of Durant was an issue against the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto did well early in the game to make things difficult for Golden State’s sweet-shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and did not have to worry about Durant changing the offensive dynamic with a floater or spot-up jumper.

“It doesn’t matter until he’s out there. So if he’s out there, he’s pretty good, but if he’s not out there we play with the guys we have and we have got enough,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the 118-109 loss.

“We had won the last, whatever, six games without him, five, six games. So we have enough, but you play with the guys who are healthy and you go. So we’ll see what happens.”

The loss ended the Warriors’ streak of 12 consecutive Game One victories and now they will need to battle the history books as teams that win the opening game of the NBA Finals have a 51-21 series record.

Before Durant suffered a calf injury during Game Five of the Western Conference semi-finals three weeks ago, he was in the midst of yet another dominant post-season run, averaging 34.2 points per game in 11 contests.

The Warriors, rich with talent, started playing much looser and went on to win that game and the next five to reach the NBA Finals where a tough Raptors team will force Kerr to continue leaning more on his bench players.

“We play a lot of guys, but they don’t play big minutes,” said Kerr.

“So we’re trying to find combinations, we’re trying to find guys who can step out on the floor for a few minutes, make a shot, make a play, and I thought the bench did a fantastic job tonight.

“They were really good, they kept us in the game.”

Game Two is on Sunday in Toronto with Game Three in Oakland next Wednesday, which will be exactly four weeks after Durant got injured. — Reuters