OAKLAND -- Someday, the ultimate result of this season might matter to the Warriors. They will look back on defeat and wonder why, or relive victory and wonder how. The reminiscence of this Warriors postseason will be, at best, sadness garnished with joy.
It barely matters if history reflects whether the Warriors won or lost the 2019 NBA Finals, for here in the present, they’ve already done both.
They’ve won by failing to release their grip on the ankles of a team that has been better by nearly every measure. Through five games, the Toronto Raptors are posting superior numbers in scoring, shooting percentage, rebounding, free throws and free-throw percentage. They have more blocks and more steals, fewer turnovers.
The Warriors have won by making it to The Finals and advancing to Game 6 on Thursday night, because they are prevailing despite living the past eight weeks under a cascade of crutches, splints, heat packs, ice bags and bandages. Not one member of their rotation has been spared.
DeMarcus Cousins was out for six weeks. Stephen Curry had a finger yanked back into place and did not miss a game. Klay Thompson missed only one game with a hamstring that continues to bark. Andre Iguodala is limping out there with tender calves and knees. Draymond Green declines to acknowledge his throbbing right knee. Kevon Looney is pulling the ice pack off his chest before subbing into a game.
The Warriors have used 10 different starting lineups. Expressing exasperation with humor, with a ring of truth, coach Steve Kerr last week singled out 15-year veteran guard Shaun Livingston, whose body requires routine maintenance, basically for remaining upright.
“I asked Shaun how it felt to be the healthiest guy left on the team right now. He said, ‘Yeah, I did not see that coming,’ " Kerr told our Kerith Burke.
“It’s a long haul getting to The Finals five years in a row,” he added. “There’s so many games, so much wear and tear. I couldn’t be [prouder] of the group to keep fighting and keep going, no matter who’s out there.”
Which brings us to Kevin Durant. He was submitting a postseason for the ages before his right calf bit him in Game 5 of the second round against the detested Rockets. The Warriors won Game 6 in Houston, and the Rockets have been pointing fingers among themselves ever since.
Durant missed the entire Western Conference finals against Portland and most of The Finals before returning for Game 5 on Sunday, dominating for 12 minutes, and then collapsing in a heap. His Achilles tendon, at the base of the same leg as his strained calf, gave way.
This is the Warriors’ biggest confirmed loss thus far, and it is devastating enough to dampen their moods for days. For months. For years, even.
“F--k, man, it ain’t right,” Livingston said of Durant’s injury. “He wanted to play. Badly. He’s the most covered player in sports right now, maybe along with Kawhi [Leonard]. And now ... the training staff is crying. They put their jobs on the line for this.
“Hopefully, it’s just a chapter in his story.”
The Warriors were outscored by four once Durant was helped into the locker room. They were outscored by five in the second half and outrebounded by four. They were clobbered in free-throw attempts, 27-14.
They won. Without KD. For KD.
“We always talk about how this team is with one another, but people still don’t really grasp what we’re talking about,” Iguodala said after Game 5. “When we say this is like a real brotherhood, a team, people have no clue what goes into that and how we feel about each other.”
One thing the Warriors have in abundance, regardless of who is active, is pride. Almost to the level of vanity. It’s the hottest fire inside of them, and it’s such a positive intangible factor.
So no matter what happens Thursday, when the ball is tipped at Oracle Arena for the very last time, they’ve won.
They’ll win if they might enter one of those crazy, inexplicable zones where shots keep dropping and the scoreboard declares it, and there is a Game 7. They’ll win if the Raptors walk off the Oracle floor as champions.
Because years from now, when these Warriors look back upon their stretch of unprecedented success, they should be as proud of their achievement in Year 5 as any of the others.