By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — Kevin Durant is back for the Golden State Warriors.
Facing elimination, the Warriors have decided that Durant is healthy enough to play in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the announcement about 90 minutes before tip-off, saying Durant will be in the starting lineup.
“He responded well and he’s going to play,” Kerr said.
The Warriors enter the night trailing the Toronto Raptors 3-1 in the title series — meaning their hopes of a third consecutive NBA championship are squarely on the brink now. Durant has not played since straining a calf muscle in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston.
Durant spent about 25 minutes on the court before leaving toward the end of the Warriors’ shootaround session for continued treatment. There apparently was no setback.
“He can play now,” Kerr said. “He’s been cleared so he’s going to play.”
Durant was cleared to resume full-fledged workouts by the Warriors’ medical staff after Game 4 of the NBA Finals and practiced with the team on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for the first time since his injury. He averaged 26.0 points per game for the Warriors during the regular season and 34.2 points in 11 playoff games before he got hurt in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston.
“You worry about the conditioning,” Kerr said. “The skill, obviously, is undeniable and he’s a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants. He’s been in similar situations with us where he’s had long layoffs. He’s Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat. We know that.”
Durant was the NBA Finals MVP when Golden State captured titles in 2017 and 2018. He has missed Golden State’s last nine games; the Warriors are 6-3 in those contests.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said his team has been preparing for Durant’s return for some time, and added some clips of certain things he does to their video study session Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) to hammer some final points home.
“He brings everything,” Nurse said.