OAKLAND – Minutes after Kevin Durant announced the rupture and successful surgery of his Achilles with a picture of him laying on a New York City hospital bed, the Warriors’ sharp-shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson was posed a question: Has Durant earned Splash Brother status?
“I think he is above and beyond a Splash Brother,” Thompson responded Wednesday at Oracle Arena.
Over the last six months, Golden State has been mulling the prospect of a future without its superstar forward as he potentially becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Now, with Durant’s season over, the Warriors will face the arduous task of forcing a do-or-die Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.
They’ll have to do it with a battered roster, trying to win for their fallen teammate.
“That definitely comes into play,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said when asked if there’s an urge to win Game 6 for Durant on Thursday. “That’s a guy who we all have seen his love for the game of basketball.”
“We want to continue to try to build on that and do everything that we can to finish the series the right way,” he added.
Durant was injured in the second quarter of Game 5 on Monday, but the Warriors survived without the All-Star in the 106-105 win. DeMarcus Cousins scored nine of his 14 points in the second quarter, where the Warriors took a 14-point lead. Thompson and Curry combined for 57 points in Game 5, and 12 of Golden State’s 3-pointers.
When Kawhi Leonard went on a personal 10-0 fourth-quarter run to put the Raptors up six with three minutes to go, the Splash Brothers scored Golden State’s final nine points to secure the win.
“Our guys competed like crazy,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “That’s the main thing. Toronto is tough to guard because they have got a lot of passers and a lot of shooters and they put you in some difficult spots. But everybody who came in was prepared to play and they were flying around and rotating. We did everything we could to hang in the game on the road and we were able to pull it out.”
Durant’s season-ending injury just adds to Golden State’s injury conundrum. Four games before Durant’s return from a strained calf, Kevon Looney suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture, and aggravated it in Game 5. Cousins is five games removed from returning from a torn right quadriceps, while Andre Iguodala and Thompson have also missed games this postseason due to injury.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Cousins said. “So it sucks to lose key pieces to the team, but we just got to find a way to grind through it and make something happen.”
As for Game 6, Golden State remained up in the day leading up to Thursday’s tipoff. Bay Area legend Mac Dre’s music blared through the Oracle Arena speakers as players got their final shots up during the backend of practice. For a team down 3-2 in the NBA Finals, the defending champs still had their swagger.
“I think we draw on our experience, just being here,” Warriors guard Shaun Livingston said. “We draw on that experience knowing that, just try not to get rattled, always staying poised, understanding we have some of the best shooters in the game that can get us back into any game.”
Just before Curry and Thompson walked off podium in one of their last visits to Oracle Arena, Thompson simultaneously complemented Durant while reminding everyone in the room the herculean task ahead of Golden State will bare without the seven-footer.
“Me and Steph, we get as many jump shots as we want,” Thompson said. “Still can’t rise up and shoot over any man on this earth. So I don’t think we need to include him in the Splash Brothers to evaluate him on his talent and his skill, because it’s pretty obvious to the human eye how good of an athlete, how great of an athlete he is.”