Du­rant re­turns, then re-in­jures leg

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Me­d­ina

TORONTO — Just like he did al­most seam­lessly in his first two years with the War­riors, Kevin Du­rant stepped on the court, ex­erted his dom­i­nance and left the or­ga­ni­za­tion feel­ing good about their NBA ti­tle chances.

Just like ev­ery­thing sur­round­ing his third and pos­si­bly fi­nal sea­son with the War­riors, Du­rant’s stel­lar play be­came over­shad­owed with an­other in­jury, more talk about his fu­ture and the po­ten­tial end of the War­riors’ dy­nasty.

The War­riors fin­ished with a 106-105 vic­tory over the Toronto Rap­tors in Game 5 of the NBA Fi­nals on Mon­day, cut­ting the series deficit to 3-2 and en­sur­ing at least Game 6 in what will mark the fi­nal game at Or­a­cle Arena on Thurs­day. Mean­while, Du­rant ap­pears to have played his fi­nal game this sea­son and with the War­riors.

In his first game since miss­ing the pre­vi­ous 14 with a strained right calf, Du­rant left with 9:46 left in the sec­ond quar­ter af­ter fall­ing to the ground and fa­vor­ing his right foot and an­kle. Steph Curry, An­dre Iguo­dala and War­riors med­i­cal direc­tor Dr. Rick Cele­brini helped Du­rant off the court as he strug­gled to put pres­sure on his foot.

The War­riors later an­nounced in the third quar­ter that Du­rant would not re­turn for Game 5 be­cause of a right lower leg in­jury. The War­riors added Du­rant plans to re­ceive an MRI on Tues­day, though the ex­act time has not yet been de­ter­mined. Du­rant was seen leav­ing the arena mid­way through the third quar­ter on crutches and a walk­ing boot.

Yet, the War­riors fig­ured out how to win with­out Du­rant in a po­ten­tial elim­i­na­tion game. Af­ter DeMar­cus

Cousins com­mit­ted an of­fen­sive foul with a 106-105 lead with 15.7 sec­onds left, the War­riors swarmed Rap­tors guard Kyle Lowry on a missed 3. Be­fore that mo­ment, Klay Thomp­son buried a 3 to give the War­riors a 106-103 lead with 56.6 sec­onds left. Stephen Curry tied the game at 103 with his own 3 with 1:22 re­main­ing. Be­fore then, Thomp­son con­tested a Kawhi Leonard jumper be­fore drain­ing a 3 to re­duce the Rap­tors’ lead to 103-100 with 2:32 left.

Still, the series is not over and the War­riors have no­table in­juries. War­riors re­serve Kevon Looney sat out for most of the sec­ond half af­ter ag­gra­vat­ing

a frac­ture near his chest and ribcage, an in­jury that side­lined him in Game 3 be­fore re­turn­ing un­ex­pect­edly in Game 4. Most of the at­ten­tion cen­ters on Du­rant’s in­jury, though.

As Du­rant han­dled the ball against Toronto for­ward Serge Ibaka, Du­rant crossed over left, planted his right foot and pulled up in pain be­fore fall­ing to the ground. Du­rant tugged at his foot, an­kle and calf be­fore be­ing helped up.

The Rap­tors fans first cheered the in­jury. War­riors play­ers then ges­tured to­ward the crowd an­grily be­fore Rap­tors play­ers shared the same out­rage. The Toronto crowd then gave Du­rant a round of ap­plause to show sup­port as he left the court. And to think, it ap­peared Du­rant was back

to his former self af­ter fin­ish­ing with 11 points on 3-of-5 shoot­ing and two re­bounds in 12 min­utes.

The War­riors re­cently felt more pres­sure for Du­rant to re­turn, while fac­ing a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto. Yet, the War­riors main­tained they would not clear Du­rant to play un­til the train­ing staff felt com­fort­able do­ing so. He had just prac­ticed on Sun­day, which marked his first prac­tice since ini­tially in­jur­ing his right calf against Hous­ton in Game 5 of the Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals on May 8. Yet, War­riors coach Steve Kerr said be­fore­hand that Du­rant’s re­turn had any­thing to do with the series cir­cum­stances.

“He can play now,” Kerr said be­fore­hand. “He’s been cleared, so he’s go­ing to play.”

Du­rant’s de­but quickly ended in a fi­nale. That left the War­riors with a fa­mil­iar task ever since Du­rant ini­tially strained his right calf just over a month ago. How can they win with­out a player that led the league in post­sea­son scor­ing (34.2)? Af­ter fail­ing to do that three out of four times against Toronto, the War­riors pre­vailed in Game 5 with their All-Stars all ex­ert­ing their play.

Curry fin­ished with 31 points while shoot­ing 10-of-23 from the field and 5-of-14 from 3. Thomp­son added 26 points while shoot­ing 9-of-21 over­all and 7-of-13 from deep. Dray­mond Green nearly logged his sixth post­sea­son triple dou­ble with 10 points, 10 re­bounds, and eight as­sists.


Kawhi Leonard, left, of the Rap­tors is de­fended by Dray­mond Green of the War­riors in the sec­ond half dur­ing Game Five of the NBA Fi­nals on Mon­day in Toronto.

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