NBA: 5 ripple effects of Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images /
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5. Golden State’s three-peat quest is finished

This reads like a hot take, but rest assured, it is not. Regardless of the result of Game 5, which the Warriors miraculously won on the back of a Stephen Curry 3-pointer and Kyle Lowry becoming a walking turnover; Golden State cannot finish an impossible comeback without Kevin Durant. Even Game 5’s victory was covered with KD’s fingerprints.

In Games 3 and 4, the Dubs’ bench combined for just 45 points. Meanwhile, Toronto found at least four players in double-digit scoring in those games, with six players reaching double figures in Games 3 and 5. In Game 5, the Warriors’ second unit scored just 23 points, while Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet combined for 26 points off the Raptors bench themselves.

The difference in Game 5? Kevin Durant scored 11 points in 12 minutes. Had the Warriors’ bench had a player score 11 points in 12 minutes in any of their previous games, the Finals might be tied, if not in favor of Golden State.

To put it simply, the Warriors would not have won Game 5 without Kevin Durant. The same is true for Game 6. With Durant on the floor, Kawhi Leonard can’t guard the likes of Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, and instead must defend KD. It also affects the Raptors’ offensive game plan, as the Warriors’ defense deploys much more effective switching. Without Durant, Leonard can pick up Curry or Klay in the full-court, and the likes of Lowry and Pascal Siakam can become more effective in a pace-and-space style of offense.

During Game 4, Toronto head coach Nick Nurse deployed a box-and-one defense — a junk defense typically used when the opposing team only has one good scorer — in the NBA Finals. Even more shocking than the scheme, it was actually a smothering defense. The only reason it would ever work is due to Durant’s absence. Golden State’s offense and depth is simply too limited without him to compete at the same level as the Raptors, and their comeback hopes disappeared with the tear of Durant’s Achilles.