TORONTO, Canada (AFP) — Golden State star forward Kevin Durant will play in Monday’s fifth game of the NBA Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, ending his nine-game layoff with a right calf injury.
The 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player has been sidelined for more than a month as the defending NBA champions have been taken to the brink of defeat by the Toronto Raptors, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-1.
Durant was the Warriors leading scorer with 34.2 points a game and also contributed 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game for Golden State before being hurt against Houston in the second round.
“He has responded well and he’s going to play,” Kerr said. “He can play now. He has been cleared and he’s going to play.”
Durant represents Golden State’s last chance to seize momentum from the Raptors and sustain their bid for a third consecutive title and fourth in five years.
“If a team can get a win from 3-1 and make it 3-2, you can get some momentum,” Kerr said. “The tenor of the series changes. That’s our goal.”
The major question is how well can Durant play after such a long layoff and how well will he be able to blend into the Warriors’ lineup knowing one loss will end their “Three-peat” dream.
“Even without having played, he is such a huge threat,” Kerr said. “Just his mere presence makes a big difference for us.”
Durant will force the Raptors to spread the floor defensively and that could give Durant or his teammates open opportunities they have thus far lacked.
Kerr said he might open with Durant in short bursts and did not commit to starting him.
© Agence France-Presse