OAKLAND, Calif. — The boys were finally back in town on Wednesday night after a lengthy five-game cross-country road trip to host the Boston Celtics at Oracle arena. Unfortunately, the Warriors departed to Minnesota for Friday’s game against the Timberwolves after the third quarter. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Kevin Durant was also in the building. It was the first time he made himself available to the media for questioning since spraining his MCL against the Washington Wizards back on Feb. 28th.
All in all, there was plenty of news to digest on a busy Wednesday night in the NBA. Some good news (like Durant limping us through his mindset), some bad news (like the Spurs’ 28-point comeback) and one very ugly fourth quarter of basketball from the Warriors.
With only 18 games remaining before the end of the regular season, it appears there is no better time to freak out than the present. But, before we do that, let’s take a step back and soak it all in.
The downright ugly
The Warriors scored 12 points in the fourth quarter last night against the Celtics.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to score 47 points through the first three quarters. However, Boston shut the water off from the Splash Brothers in the fourth by allowing only a single point from Curry and Thompson combined.
The turning point came with 3:21 left in the final period. With the Warriors down 11, Klay Thompson grabbed a defensive rebound and brought the ball up the court hell-bent on jacking up a three.
Thompson did just that, sinking a pull-up three from straight away. But the basket didn’t count because Draymond Green was correctly called for a moving screen near the time line which helped free up Thompson for the shot.
The Warriors appeared to have nothing in the tank for the final 12 minutes — but can you really blame them? As Golden State of Mind’s Jason Lee pointed out in The anatomy of a scheduled loss, the Warriors are smack dab in the middle of one of their toughest stretches of the season, which includes over 9,500 miles traveled in 10 days. After Saturday, the Dubs will have played eight games total (seven away) in six time zone changes with two sets of back-to-backs.
When you compound this unfavorable stretch of the season with the loss of Kevin Durant, you are going to get some ugly basketball. But as Klay Thompson said after the game, “It’s better to go through this stretch now than in a month.”
Amen to that.
The bad news
The San Antonio Spurs overcame a 28-point deficit last night against the Sacramento Kings, without Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldridge. Yes, the Kings are so terrible that they even let down the fans of opposing teams.
The Spurs’ win combined with the Warriors’ loss closes the gap on the top seed to just 1.5 games. And, as stated earlier, Golden State will face San Antonio on Saturday. It will be the Warriors’ third game in four days.
Kerr said after the game that he plans to discuss the possibility of resting players on the upcoming road trip with the training staff, noting that the Warriors are keeping all of their options open.
The coaching staff is faced with a tough predicament: Balancing much needed late-season rest for key players all while trying to maintain their strong hold on home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We still want the number one seed [but] I won’t run guys ragged to get it,” Kerr said, after the loss to the Celtics. “We want it, it would be nice to get, but you have to get through the season in one piece and pace yourselves a little bit.”
The Warriors will be back home next week for three games to which Kerr says will help the team recharge a bit. But the end of March will be a crucial stretch for the Warriors.
Golden State will host Memphis at home for a Sunday matinee on March 26th. They will then prepare for the Texas two-step, with a grueling back-to-back, against Houston on Tuesday and San Antonio on Wednesday, before returning home on Friday to take on the Rockets.
Four games in six days against teams that the Warriors are currently 2-4 against on the season.
The good news
Well, maybe more like the not so bad news.
Kevin Durant made his first appearance before Wednesday night’s game in which he was not on his couch or in a wheelchair. The slender shooting forward gimped to a chair set up in front of the press conference table to field questions from the media in regards to his injury.
Durant explained how nerve racking the initial 30 minutes were after he suffered the injury. “I thought I had to go through this long rehab to get back on the court. Then I got a call and they said it wasn’t as bad,” Durant said.
He went on to share how the injury could have been a lot worse, before reducing the injury to a “boo boo” he got while playing basketball. He maintained that his spirits are good and that he can only take the recovery process one day at a time.
He did not offer any timetable for a return, not even a broad estimation. Durant is currently focused on smaller goals like being able to straighten out his leg and get back his range of motion. “Whenever my body tells me I’ll be ready to play, that’s when I’ll be ready to play. So I’m not really taking it too far down the line,” Durant said.
Durant declined to comment on what his initial injury diagnosis was and what sort of New Age therapy he is receiving. My only guess is that he is probably taking some superhuman nutrients obtained by Joe Lacob himself from the atmosphere of Venus.
To really nit pick at watching Durant walk around, it didn’t look like he had a crazy limp or was in a large amount of pain. He did walk in with the tallest crutches I’ve ever seen in my life, to which he handed off to take a couple of steps under his own power.
Durant is scheduled to be re-evaluated on March 29th. It’s possible we could see Durant back in action as soon as mid-April or even as late as early May. My guess is that how the Warriors close out the season could have a minor impact on how quickly Durant returns to action.
For now, we will have to live with the positive news that Durant is in a good place mentally and will return at some point this season, whenever that may be.