Connect with us


5 Clutch Points: Warriors escape wild night vs. Rockets, brace for results of Kevin Durant injury


The Golden State Warriors survived a 104-99 frenzy at Oracle Arena to muster a 3-2 edge over the Houston Rockets and put them on the brink of elimination. A non-contact injury to Kevin Durant, however, can potentially derail any plans the defending champions had of reaching a fifth straight title game.

These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

A murky night at Oracle and the consequences of a Kevin Durant injury

Game 5 was described as a must win for the defending champions, given that teams that go up 3-2 win 82% of their playoff series. However, Wednesday night at Oracle Arena had so much more riding on its hardwood.

Kevin Durant suffered a lower leg injury in the closing moments of the third quarter, as the Warriors weathered a Rockets storm that had Houston come back from down 20 to threaten the Warriors’ chances to pull of a win at home.

While there was certain speculation that it might be a torn Achilles, reports soon declared it a right calf strain, making him unable to return to the game.

Following the game, head coach Steve Kerr was candid with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, telling him Durant won’t suit up against the Rockets for Game 6.

“He’s not going to play Game 6,” Kerr told me late Wednesday. “We can all pretend and just say he’s doubtful. But he’s not playing Game 6.”

Durant will instead stay in the Bay Area to receive treatment after he undergoes an MRI, which should reveal the full extent of his injury.

According to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (who made sure to say she’s not a doctor): a Grade 1 calf strain could cost Durant seven-to-10 days for recovery, while a Grade 2 could sideline him from four-to-six weeks — effectively ending his postseason.

Unless it happens to be a mild strain, Durant is very unlikely to return this series, and maybe even in time for the start of the Western Conference Finals.

If the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers go to seven games, it would merely give the two-time NBA Finals MVP only four full days of rest before the next round starts.

It’s likely that the Splash Brothers will have to carry the torch, as they once did without Durant — but this could prove a major change at this juncture, considering how poorly they have shot the ball throughout the series.

The massive talent difference between Durant to the next man up will be notable, as the Warriors have an already-thin bench that has yet to contribute in major ways in this stretch.

Stephen Curry puts on the cape

The Warriors were forced to rely on their two-time MVP after Durant went down with his calf injury, and despite a horrid start to the game, Curry put on the cape in the last stretch.

The franchise player scored five of his next six shots to keep Golden State above water, including two huge threes to match the Rockets’ outside firepower.

Curry scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a personal 7-0 run early in the period to give the Warriors some slight breathing room.

Curry managed to salvage one of his worst playoff performances with some clutch play down the stretch, as he had only scored nine points on 4-of-14 shooting (1-of-8 from deep) before Durant went down.

The former unanimous MVP had a rough all-around night, missing makable layups and shooting threes without any rhythm — hoping to will them in, to no avail.

Klay Thompson’s fast start and a controversial play

Golden State got a good boost from the home rims and the infectious energy surrounding Oracle Arena, and so did Klay Thompson, who scored 17 points in the first half after a ghastly first four games of this series.

Thompson was averaging a measly 15.3 points per game in this series, neutralized by a locked-in Eric Gordon, who had far outplayed him at both ends of the floor.

Twelve of his initial 17 came in the first quarter, connecting on five of his first six shots, including two 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 31-17 advantage after one quarter.

Yet perhaps his most vital contributions were late in the game, as he splashed an open three after another Kevon Looney offensive rebound to give the Warriors a 97-89 lead with 2:34 remaining in regulation.

The other, was as controversial as this series has been — Klay caught the ball near the right corner under pressure, a place known as no-man’s land in this situation, as the Rockets tried to trap him with only seconds left in a three-point game.

Thompson nearly turned the ball over and actually stepped out of bounds before releasing it, but it went uncalled as a scrapping Looney got a hold of the loose ball and fired it back to a cutting Thompson, who finished with a reverse layup to give the Warriors a five-point lead

Thompson might have gotten away with this one, but he actually takes a small hop before firing the pass — making it next to impossible to see if his foot touched the ground in real time before the ball came off his fingertips.

That’s the full Klay Thompson experience, if you’ve ever seen it before.

Even after the game, Draymond Green questioned why Thompson took the layup in the first place, though soon shrugging it off, given the favorable result.

“I remember my heart dropping,” said Green after the game. “I couldn’t believe this man took that layup… but you made it though (high fives Thompson).”

“That’s all that matters,” said Thompson in response.

Kevon Looney’s big-time game

After being one of the vital cogs in the first-round series against the L.A. Clippers, Kevon Looney showed flashes of why the Warriors are so eager to keep him after this season comes to a close.

The 6-foot-9 big man made his best P.J. Tucker Game 4 impersonation and ensnared nine rebounds in the win, five of them coming on the offensive glass.

Looney’s presence was massive in his 22 minutes of play and his offensive rebounds always led to second-chance points for a Warriors team that has yet to catch fire from beyond the arc.

Perhaps his biggest contribution was outmuscling Tucker in the final seconds of regulation for a loose ball, one which ultimately rewarded him with the game-winning assist — a play that could have given the Rockets a chance to tie down the stretch.

Looney was the farthest man from the ball, but managed to sneak up from behind Tucker to grab an errant pass from Klay Thompson and fire it back his way as he cut toward the basket.

Neither the box out nor the hustle will count in the stat sheet, but it is the little things he’s been able to do for the Warriors that have made him such a valuable piece.

Loon could be in line for minutes in the mid-30s with Durant out of the picture and if he keeps performing with this intensity, they will be well-earned.

No lead is safe

If the Warriors are to take any lessons from Game 5, is that no lead is safe when the stakes are this high.

At one point, Golden State boasted a 57-37 lead in the second quarter after the Warriors ramped up a scorching 17-0 run. Yet the Rockets closed the deficit to 14 by halftime and quickly down to a 72-72 tie by the end of the third quarter — as an anemic Warriors offense was outscored 29-15 in the period.

Houston hit with a barrage of 3-pointers and a steady mix of James Harden floaters, step-backs and free throws to quickly chip away at that lead, one the Warriors have now seen evaporate more than they’d like.

The Warriors are unlikely to get this kind of rousing lead at the Toyota Center in Houston for Game 6, but if they do, they will have to tread carefully, as the Rockets’ role players can often catch fire in friendly confines — resulting in even more headaches for an already-vulnerable team.

Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant answered back when things got too close for comfort, but with the latter out of Game 6, Golden State’s margin for error will get even slimmer than it was Wednesday.

The post 5 Clutch Points: Warriors escape wild night vs. Rockets, brace for results of Kevin Durant injury appeared first on ClutchPoints.

More in Rockets