Warriors leaning on pair of legs to get healthy to win 2019 NBA Finals

Warriors leaning on pair of legs to get healthy to win 2019 NBA Finals

TORONTO – After peeping beyond statistics and adjustments and intangibles and experience variables, it becomes apparent that the fortunes of the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals may well be decided by something much simpler.

Two legs.

More specifically, two calves: Kevin Durant’s ailing right and Andre Iguodala’s tender left.

For the Warriors to have a reasonable chance of climbing out of a one-game-to-none hole to defeat the Toronto Raptors at least four times, they will need at least one of these legs to recover enough to allow its owner to play at his customary level.

If both Iguodala and Durant are able to perform, and well, as early as next Wednesday for Game 3 in Oakland, the Warriors can look forward to their third annual championship parade.

If neither responds positively to treatment, somebody else on the roster had better wrap himself in a cape, prove he can fly and carry the Warriors to their desired three-peat.

Iguodala, who limped off the court in the fourth quarter of Game 1, underwent an MRI exam on the same left calf that has nagged him periodically this season and caused the Warriors to hold him out of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals last week in Portland. The test result was clean, and the veteran pronounced himself able to play in Game 2 on Sunday.

Simply being available to play may not be enough. It wasn’t enough on Thursday. Iguodala played decent defense, but he couldn’t punish the Raptors for giving him plenty of room to shoot 3-pointers. He was 0-of-4, with three on wide open looks.

Iguodala acknowledges he needs to be more aggressive offensively when any one of the team’s primary scorers – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Durant – is out. If he makes two of those triples in Game 1, he puts additional pressure on the Toronto defense. It changes the game.

“It doesn't come down to how many shots Andre makes,” coach Steve Kerr said Friday. “It comes down to defense and getting stops. That's what the playoffs are about. We didn't get enough stops.”

We beg to differ. The Warriors actually needed both to win Game 1. They were hurt by sluggish defense and also because Andre couldn’t make the Raptors pay. He can shoot the 3; he entered the game shooting 37-percent from deep in the playoffs. He was 12-of-25 in the second round against Houston, including five 3-balls in the Game 6 clincher.

The Raptors, however, gambled and won – probably because Iguodala’s cranky calf is affecting his shooting mechanics. If the calf is sound, he’s a different shooter.

And, again, Igoudala’s offense becomes significant when Durant is out. KD is progressing and went through light drills on Friday, but he has not been cleared for contact practices. There is a slight chance he’ll do more on Saturday, but the Warriors realize they have to be careful.

The three common injuries that require the most caution are groin, hamstring and calf. Based on severity, it could be a matter of weeks or months. And all three are easy to aggravate if not fully healed.

“It's not like this is a sore ankle or his knee is sore, whatever, and you can play through it,” Kerr said. This is a tricky one.”

The Warriors hope Durant’s calf heals sufficiently to enable him to practice by next Tuesday. That would be a win for him – KD desperately wants to play – and, of course, for the team.

For now, he’s restricted to unofficial coach status. Durant has been active in providing tips and pointers to his teammates. He can’t help physically, so he’s doing what he can mentally. He wants to be involved, and his teammates appreciate that.

“He's on the bus to shootaround or to practice,” Draymond Green said. “Once you start to get closer, you start to kind of move back into a normal schedule. You starting to see him, hear his voice more. You're starting to hear him coming up with adjustments even before the game, giving his input.”

[RELATED: Durant offers positive update on status of calf strain]

The Warriors have six chances to win four games. The Raptors are a terrific team, with abundance of shooting and speed. The kind of opponent that requires an active, agile defense that requires healthy legs.

If the Warriors get one more healthy leg by Sunday, they’re ready to roll. If they get two more by next Wednesday, they’re in great shape. If they get neither, this is going to be quite the task.

They’re getting an unwanted reminder that the NBA, at its best, is a league of legs.

Seven records Warriors stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green could break

Seven records Warriors stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green could break

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The juggernaut Warriors of the last five years are no longer, but some key star holdovers have a chance to reach some NBA records this season.

With the departures of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and the injury to Klay Thompson, the playmaking and scoring for the Warriors will mostly fall on the shoulders of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and newly acquired D'Angelo Russell. So as the construction of the team changed dramatically, the Warriors now potentially face a struggle to play the same suffocating defense most have come accustomed to.

Instead, they will rely on a high-powered offense and individual key defensive players to lead the charge. Here are some records that they could break this season.

Most 3-pointers in a regular season: Steph Curry 402 (2015-16)

The biggest key to Curry toppling his own historic 3-point season will be staying healthy and in the lineup. Curry has not played over 70 games in a season since 2016-17, and played 79 games when he shattered the season record.

Since the Warriors might have to outscore teams in shootouts with their defense less reliable, Curry will be able to fire away with abandon. Curry hit 354 3-pointers in just 69 games last season. If he played 10 extra games and maintained his average 3-point rate, he would have broken his record.

So what else could help Curry break 402? Well, just keep reading ...

3-point attempts per game: James Harden 13.2 (2018-19)

When Curry made 402 3-pointers, he averaged 11.2 attempts per game. Last season, he averaged a career-high 11.7 3-point attempts per game. Shooting two more 3s per game is within reason, and definitely a welcome proposition for all Warriors fans. 

Most consecutive games with 5+ 3-pointers made: James Harden 12 (2018-19)

The more Steph shoots, the more he makes. Harden might be watching a few of his milestones surpassed this season.

Most 3-pointers attempted in a game: Klay Thompson 24 (Oct. 29, 2018)

Most 3-pointers made in a game: Klay Thompson 14 (Oct. 29, 2018)

Curry already jokingly (probably) proclaimed that he would shoot 22 3-pointers on opening night against the Clippers. So would you be surprised if he had a few games this season in which he launched endlessly from long range? Unfortunately for Klay, he will have to sit idly on the bench for most of the season while Curry goes after his record.

[RELATED: Steph Curry primed for another MVP season]

Most steals in a game: Larry Kenon 11 (Dec. 26, 1976), Kendall Gill 11 (April 3, 1999)

The defensive category belongs to Draymond Green, and after signing a $100 million extension and getting into the best shape of his life, he is primed for a breakout season. If last playoffs are any indicator of how he will play next season, then there are several defensive records and milestones that can be within his sights.

On Feb. 10, 2017, Green recorded a triple-double in Memphis. But it was not just any triple-double, it included 10 steals, one away from the single-game record. There will be many games next season that he will carry the team defensively, so perhaps he approaches the record again.

200 steals plus 100 blocks in one season: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen

In 2016-17, Green set a career-high 154 steals and blocked 106 shots -- down from his previous career-high of 113 the year prior. Remaining healthy and in the lineup for most of the season will be imperative for Green to even have a chance at approaching a 200-100 season.

It still is a long shot for Draymond to reach those totals, but when he is in shape, motivated and playing with fire, there's always a chance. 

Kevin Durant rocks Nets jersey for first time since leaving Warriors

Kevin Durant rocks Nets jersey for first time since leaving Warriors

Slowly but surely, Kevin Durant is moving on from the Warriors. 

After electing to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. Durant expressed his feelings on his time in the Bay, including the elation of winning the NBA Finals and the belief that he never would be accepted in the same way Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala were.

The next step in Durant's quest to move on from the Warriors came Thursday when he donned the black and white of Brooklyn for the first time in a promotional shoot.

Seeing KD rocking a No. 7 Nets jersey is ... a little weird.

Those jerseys are clean, though,

Durant won't see the floor this season as he continues to rehab from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Once Durant is back to 100 percent, he'll join Kyrie Irving and a band of young Nets trying to take over the Eastern Conference.

[RELATED: Steph fires back at KD after criticism of Warriors offense]

As for the Warriors, they remade their roster after Durant's exit and will be looking to go back to their roots with a ball-movement centric attack that lets Curry, new addition D'Angelo Russell and Thompson -- when he returns from his torn ACL -- torment opposing defenses.