On Tuesday night, the Golden State Warriors suffered a crushing 108-112 defeat to the Washington Wizards. However, it certainly wasn’t the end for bad news — as forward Kevin Durant suffered an apparent knee-injury early in the game.
As the game began, Durant had his shot blocked on the Warriors’ first possession, then committed a clueless turnover shortly after. It was a fairly emotional matchup for Durant, as he was prepared to return to Washington D.C, which is his hometown of many memories. As Kevin was an unrestricted free-agent last summer, returning home to play for the Wizards was one of his possible destinations, but ultimately chose to play in Golden State.
By not even two-minutes into the first quarter, teammate Zaza Pachulia lost his balance while getting tangled up (on a rebound) with Marcin Gortat, he took a hard fall, with his head hitting Durant’s left knee on the way down. In serious pain, Durant attempted to walk it off while the Warriors had possession. It ultimately forced Steve Kerr to call a timeout, taking the eight-time All-Star out of action and into the locker room.
The game continued on, as it was later reported that Durant would not return. The injury was initially labeled as a hyperextended knee, but even after the game, the Warriors’ organization and fans continued to hold their breaths for the worst.
There were various rumors that Durant would possibly miss ‘months’ due to the injury, but the final MRI from Wednesday morning was a left MCL sprain as well as a bone bruise. The 2014 MVP will be reevaluated in four weeks, and is expected to return before the 2017 postseason, according to multiple sources.
All in all, good news for Kevin Durant and Warriors, team says: Sprained MCL, bone bruise. He will be re-evaluated in a month.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) March 1, 2017
With Durant officially being out, it’s obviously a huge blow for the highest-winning team in the NBA. We may see a critical-change in the Western Conference standings, as the San Antonio Spurs are only four-games behind the Warriors for the number-one seed. But in an effort to remain conservative, the Warriors will sign former Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes, who could soon start in place of Durant. Barnes spent two years with Golden State during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. He’s an ideal fit, as the thirteen-year veteran will provide much needed two-way capabilities at the small forward position.
And for such an exciting summer, it wasn’t necessarily a “breath of fresh-air” for the Warriors to abandon some key expiring contracts, such as Marresse Speights, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and of course Harrison Barnes in order to make room for Durant. Now as a member of the Warriors, many thought Golden State’s focus would be directed more towards getting him comfortable, as supposed to who they were (a predominantly ball-movement, screen thrusting team) last season. But practically, the best scorer in the NBA was able to fit right-in, as the transition wasn’t too difficult to suffice.
Golden State leads the NBA in assists (31.0) by an overwhelming margin, and as far as the addition of Durant is demonstrated, no player has had a more difficult adjusting period than two-time MVP and All-Star three-point specialist, Stephen Curry.
2015-16 season: 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 50% field-goal, 45% three-point, 90% free-throw.
2016-17 season: 24.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.9 turnovers, 46% field-goal, 40% three-point, 91% free-throw.
With his numbers falling tremendously from last season, some have taken the initiative to overreact of this being “a bad season” for Steph. But as someone who was the first-option, and was freely taking a career-high 20.2 field-goal attempts per-game, there shouldn’t be much surprise towards this sort of decline.
In comparison to 2015-16, Curry’s usage-rate has dipped from 32.6 to 29.3 through 59 games of the 2016-17 season. It’s clear that he’s not 100% settled on where he would primarily take his shots, but with the Durant injury, this easily re-opens the door for him. I mean, none of us could say this would make Curry worse — right?
If there’s anyone who needs an opportunity to finish the regular season strong, it’s fallen right into the hands of Curry, as he returns as Golden State’s first-option, as he was for many seasons.
Quick Thought: In the 2015-16 season, Curry had just 156 “lost-ball” turnovers. And still with 22 remaining games in this season, he’s already up to 116.
The reigning unanimous MVP has only had two 40-point and zero 50-point performances this year, after having ten 40-point and three 50-point performances prior. With Golden State having (somewhat of) a difficult road schedule the rest of the way (9 in March), it may be unlikely that Steph will be able to have huge games.
…But then again, it’s Stephen Curry.
In his last-ten games, Steph has seen his numbers drop to 22.2 scoring on 42% shooting from the field and 33% from three.
Here are his most-notable:
- 11 points, 4-18 shooting, 1-11 from three, in a 132-110 blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets on February 13th.
- 13 points, 4-14 shooting, 2-8 from three, in a 109-86 win over the Sacramento Kings
- 19 points, 7-23 shooting, tied NBA record 0-11 from three, in a 119-108 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Warriors are 9-3 when Steph scores thirty-or-more in a game, and it’s going to take more than just Curry (and his miraculous offensive abilities) to fill-in for what Durant was able to provide. They’re extremely lucky that their superstar small forwards’ season is still alive, but thus a tough journey awaits them.
“Me, Andre, Shaun, Klay and Draymond have been together for a while, but have only been through one game without him [Durant]. So it’ll be an adjustment.” Steph told reporters following Tuesday’s loss. “We do have a lot of veteran guys that are here to step-up, and still stay competitive, continue to get wins, and keep pushing. Obviously don’t want to do that with anyone who misses an extended period of time.”
Now without their leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker, Golden State will begin a critical month of March on Thursday, as they’ll enter the United Center to face the Chicago Bulls. This will begin a five (out-of-six) game road stretch.