The Warriors executed down the stretch to steal a win in Game 5 over the Rockets. But along the way, they might have lost Kevin Durant to a leg injury.
Another game between the Warriors and Rockets, another uber-competitive game settled on the final few possessions. Golden State jumped out to an early lead but lost it in the third quarter as the Rockets kept pressing. Stephen Curry hit some shots inside the arc, Klay Thompson hit some from beyond it and Draymond Green barely missed a triple-double with 8 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.
The game’s deciding possession came with just a few seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Rockets trailing by three. P.J. Tucker tipped the inbounds pass, a scramble ensued and what could have a steal and a chance to tie ended up with a loose ball in the hands of Klay Thompson and a lay-up to put the game out of reach. However, the game’s most important possession may have been the one where Kevin Durant injured his right leg (more on that below). Golden State may have done enough to ease their path into the Western Conference Finals, but that path is a lot rockier if they lose Durant for any significant amount of time.
What comes next for Kevin Durant? The Warriors’ offensive engine left the game towards the end of the third quarter with a non-contact leg injury that large segments of Basketball Twitter M.D.s immediately diagnosed as a torn Achilles’. Durant spent the rest of the game in the locker room and the official report from Golden State was that it was a right calf strain, and they made a point of pointing out that it was not an Achilles’ injury. Assuming the possibilities here are everything from Durant returning, unbothered, for Game 6 to him missing at least a few games, it would seem that a lot of variance has just been introduced to the Warriors’ championship equation.
The Warriors won the battle on the glass. A big part of the Rockets getting themselves back into this series was winning the rebounding battle and, in particular, getting themselves extra chances on the offensive glass. Golden State clearly saw this issue and addressed it with energy and effort in Game 5. They limited Houston to just Tk offensive rebounds, with Clint Capela as the only Rockets in double-figures and won the overall rebounding battle TK-TK. That work helped put the pressure on the Rockets’ shooters, who weren’t able to deliver.
Harden was, once again, on an island. Along with rebounding, it was strong games from Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela who helped the Rockets get back in the series. In Game 5, that group combined for just 38 points on 13-of-33 shooting. Gordon wasn’t able to replicate his game-changing production from Games 3 and 4, hitting from the outside and attacking off the dribble. With Chris Paul shooting 3-of-13 and continuing to look utterly unspecial, the task was just too large for Harden.