The Golden State Warriors will continue their quest for a third straight NBA championship without Kevin Durant, at least through Game 4 of their Western Conference Finals series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Ahead of Game 2 Thursday night, Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers went on NBC Bay Area Sports (h/t Dan Dibley) and revealed Durant will not travel to Portland for Games 3 and 4 while he continues to nurse a right calf injury.
The Warriors then released an official injury update for both Durant and center DeMarcus Cousins:
“It’s a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning, so we’ll see where it goes,” head coach Steve Kerr said after Game 2, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.
The 30-year-old two-time NBA Finals MVP pulled up with an injury during Game 5 of the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinals series against the Houston Rockets on May 8 and has not played since.
Based on the look of the non-contact injury, the initial fear was that Durant had injured his Achilles. But the official diagnosis of a calf strain was relayed by Kerr after the Warriors’ Game 5 win.
The defending champions have fared just fine without the All-Star forward, closing out the Rockets in Game 6 and burying the Blazers 116-94 in Game 1 Tuesday night. However, shooting guard Klay Thompson made it clear after the Warriors sent the Rockets home for the second season in a row that Durant is irreplaceable.
“If we want to get this three-peat, we desperately need him back,” the Splash Brother told reporters. “He’s our best player, so we dearly miss him, and we’ll hold it down while he’s out, but it’s not the same without him. Far from it.”
Durant leads all players in the postseason with 34.2 points per game. But in his absence, the Warriors have reminded the world of the team that won a title before Durant joined in 2016, and Stephen Curry has shown why he won the league MVP award in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The point guard was held scoreless through the first half of Game 6 against the Rockets but subsequently went off for 33 second-half points, including a career-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. In Game 1 against the Blazers, Curry led all scorers with 36 points and hit nine three-pointers.
That said, Blazers guard Seth Curry—Steph’s younger brother—astutely described the Durant-less Warriors as “definitely not a better team, but they’re harder to guard” to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
Given the uncertainty surrounding how Durant will handle his free agency this summer, these retro Warriors could be providing a glimpse at their future reality. Before that, though, Golden State would surely like him healthily and contributing to the pursuit of another ring.