PORTLAND, Ore. — Kevin Durant is the Golden State Warriors' best player and a matchup nightmare. He was the league MVP in 2014, and has been named to 10 All-Star games and eight All-NBA teams, including the first team six times.
He averaged 28.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.0 blocks and shot 57.5% from the field and 41.2% from the 3-point line in four games against the Blazers this season. He's a basketball monster for whom Portland has no easily identifiable answer.
Durant is also hurt. He strained his right calf in Game 5 of the conference semifinals, and the most recent report about his availability favors the Blazers.
According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Durant won't play in Game 1 and is "unlikely" to play in Game 2. His absence presents a huge opportunity for the Blazers to steal a game or two in Oakland, when the Western Conference finals begin Tuesday.
During the regular season, the Warriors were 15.5 points worse when Durant was on the bench. With Durant in the game, Golden State outscored teams by 11.3 points per 100 possessions. When he was on the bench, the Warriors were outscored by 4.2 points per 100.
It's been a similar story in the playoffs, with the Warriors performing 11.8 points worse with Durant on the bench. When he's been in the game, Golden State has outscored teams by nine points per 100. With him on the bench, the Warriors are being outscored by 2.8 points per 100.
It's true that the Warriors beat the Houston Rockets on the road in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals without Durant. That was an impressive win and showed that Golden State can still ramp up its offense without Durant (the Warriors' defensive rating in that game was 115.3, which is not good. That rating would have ranked 29th in the NBA during the regular season).
It's not just Durant, either. The Warriors are banged up. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Draymond Green are all nursing various injuries, bumps and bruises.
"The Western Conference semifinals took a chunk from the champions," wrote Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. "Curry aggravated his dislocated left middle finger and he and Klay Thompson averaged more than 40 minutes per game on tender ankles. Andre Iguodala averaged nearly 35 minutes as a starter and sustained a knee injury he played through. Shaun Livingston, who has been battling his body all season, played his biggest game of the season in Game 6 with a sore left hip. Green spent hours on the training table before Game 6 getting treatment to prepare for big minutes at center."
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