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.

NBA rumors: Warriors privately 'cool' on playing when season returns

NBA rumors: Warriors privately 'cool' on playing when season returns

To play or not to play?

That is the question facing the Warriors as the NBA nears a decision on how many teams will participate when the league resumes the 2019-20 season.

While coach Steve Kerr said the team is operating as if the season is over, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that owner Joe Lacob told his fellow owners that the team was "willing" to play if all 30 NBA teams were asked to play.

But ... Wojnarowski also reported, citing sources, that the Warriors have been "far more cool to the idea in private."

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Based on Wojnawowski's reporting from Friday, the NBA Board of Governors are expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver's proposal for a 22-team restart plan later this week, meaning the Warriors -- who hold the worst record in the league -- would not be asked to play any more games this season.

The Warriors don't have anything left to play for this season. They are the only team that has been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Does it make sense for the players to go through several weeks of training camp to play a handful of meaningless games?

"It's a hard thing to put your mind in that space, 'I'm gonna go out here and compete and bust my a-- and know in five games we're just gonna be back in the offseason again,' " Warriors star Steph Curry told former teammate Anthony Morrow recently on "The Life Podcast."

[RELATED: Warriors facility opens, players show up]

Would it be advantageous for the Warriors to get a brief look at Curry playing alongside Andrew Wiggins? Sure, but they don't need to risk injury to either player when the goal is making sure the team is ready to bounce back for the 2020-21 season.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Steph Curry reacts to Damian Lillard's comments on 'meaningless games'

Steph Curry reacts to Damian Lillard's comments on 'meaningless games'

Damian Lillard created headlines last week with his comments about the NBA's potential plans for resuming the 2019-20 season.

"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team," the Portland Trail Blazers star guard told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now.

"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs -- I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games."

What is Steph Curry's reaction to that?

"I feel what he's saying because it's hard mentally to go with this long of gap, and then prepare for games you know don't matter," the Warriors' superstar said on the "The Life Podcast" with Anthony Morrow and Justin Jack. "I get it.

"It's a hard thing to put your mind in that space, 'I'm gonna go out here and compete and bust my a-- and know in five games we're just gonna be back in the offseason again.'"

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Golden State did re-open Chase Center facilities Monday so players could work out again, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Logan Murdock. 

But all indications are that the Warriors won't be playing any additional games this season, and will not be included among the teams that eventually will take the court in Orlando.

[RELATED: Oakland's own Lillard rips Orlovsky for calling him spoiled]

"Between now and Thursday's vote of the board of governors on the plan to restart the season, the NBA is working to complete the details of a 22-team format," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe wrote Monday.

So for Lillard and the Blazers -- who currently sit in a three-way tie for ninth place in the Western Conference -- it appears they will get the opportunity to claw their way into the playoffs.

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