In Game 5, Iguodala played 33 minutes on a banged-up left knee, and Durant just joined Cousins on the list of unavailables. The Warriors, who aren’t nearly as deep as they were when this run of championship contention began during the 2014-15 season, will soon find out if they have enough to buy Durant more recovery time – or if Houston can launch the whole Golden State franchise into a murky off-season, headlined by the looming free agencies of Durant and Thompson, earlier than anyone expected.
They got by Wednesday night thanks to Thompson (27 points after two rough games in Houston), Green (8 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists), Kevon Looney (five of Golden State’s nine offensive rebounds) and, of course, Curry. Golden State’s early 31-17 lead after one quarter – achieved without Curry scoring a single point – predictably didn’t last. But the sharpshooting Curry finally broke out of his series-long perimeter funk to make five of his first six shots after Durant’s departure, good for 14 of Curry’s 25 points.
“It was a breakthrough for sure,” Curry said.
It certainly didn’t hurt the hosts that Paul shot just 3-for-14 from the field – or that Houston’s James Harden (31 points) managed just one shot attempt over the game’s final eight minutes and 30 seconds. The Rockets, though, are bound to bounce back with vigor once the full scope of their opportunity to slay the mighty (and compromised) Warriors sets in.
This is already just the fourth playoff series in league history in which each of the first five games were decided by 6 points or less. The Warriors have outscored the Rockets by a mere touchdown – 7 points overall – in the five games so far.
“We know we’re going to have to be near-perfect to go down to Houston without a Kevin and win a game,” Thompson said.
Kerr insisted afterward that he had been assured by the Warriors’ medical staff that Durant’s injury was “not the Achilles.” No need, then, to commence with the breathless (and largely futile) speculation about how the setback potentially affects Durant’s free agency in July and the rival teams such as the Knicks, Nets and Los Angeles Clippers who have been planning to aggressively court him starting July 1.
Focusing on the mere playoff impact of Durant’s freshly uncertain status is grave enough. He’s averaging 35.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists in these playoffs, while shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from the 3-point line. With LeBron James missing from the N.B.A. postseason for the first time since 2005, it’s Durant who has emerged as the most feared singular force on the planet.