Kerr optimistic KD can return if Warriors advance

HOUSTON — Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will not play in the rest of his team’s Western Conference semifinals series against the Houston Rockets because of a right calf strain, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he is confident Durant will be able to return in the conference finals if Golden State can close out this series.

“I think it’s good news,” Kerr said Thursday night after the Warriors landed in Houston. “Calf strain, he’s had them before. He’s responded well. Obviously, we’re disappointed he won’t be able to play in this series. If we’re able to win the series and move on, looks good for his return in the not-too-distant future.”

Durant injured his calf in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 104-99 Game 5 win over the Rockets. With 2:11 left in the quarter, Durant went up for a jumper over Rockets swingman Iman Shumpert and landed awkwardly. Initially, Warriors personnel were concerned that Durant had suffered an Achilles injury, but an MRI on Thursday confirmed the calf strain.

Durant will be reevaluated in a week. He stayed behind in the Bay Area with a member of the Warriors’ training staff to get treatment on his calf.

Kerr said he hadn’t spoken to Durant since late Wednesday night, but the feeling of relief from within the Warriors organization is palpable. Kerr says he is confident his team can find a way to win one more game against the Rockets and advance to the Western Conference finals, setting up Durant’s potential return in that round. Game 6 of the semis is Friday night in Houston with the Warriors leading the series 3-2.

“It’s the playoffs, it’s the ultimate test,” Kerr said. “We’re in a great spot, we’re up 3-2. Got championship rings on our fingers. Lot of experience and a lot of confidence that comes from that. So let’s go out there and let it rip.”

Kerr said he has a pretty good idea of how he wants to set up his rotations without Durant in the fold, but he wouldn’t reveal that until closer to Friday night’s game time. The Warriors were expected to have a film session upon arrival in Houston, and Kerr liked the way his team was feeling.

“There’s an advantage to have championship experience,” Kerr said. “To have rings on your fingers. This group will never be doubted. This group has nothing to prove. There is a freedom with that. We’re being hit with injuries, which is a part of it. One of the reasons it’s so hard to win a championship because things like this happen. We’ve been with injuries in the past during this run. This is probably the hardest we’ve been hit with DeMarcus [Cousins] and Kevin. The challenge is here, right there in front of our guys. We just have to win one game, so let’s do it.”

Kerr reiterated that point several times during his news conference with reporters, maintaining a sense of humor in the wake of another tough injury setback in the postseason. While discussing the impact of Durant’s injury, Kerr drew a few chuckles from the assembled media.

“Just find somebody on the bench who can give us 35 points,” Kerr said. “Two blocks and 11 boards and 9 assists.

“He’s been the best player in the NBA in the playoffs; he’s been phenomenal. And so — it’s obviously a huge loss, but our team has a lot of confidence. They trust each other; they’ve won championships together. So we come out and we give it our best shot, and we try to mix and match the lineups and find some minutes and some contributions where we haven’t had them so far in this series. Guys’ll get opportunities who haven’t had an opportunity yet. So it’ll be a little different, but no reason why we can’t go get a win.”

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