In the aftermath of Kevin Durant’s knee injury, the Golden State Warriors played their worst basketball of the Steve Kerr era. Since the Splash Brothers became NBA icons and Stephen Curry solidified himself as the best shooter in the NBA, the Warriors had never even come close to playing as badly as they were in early March. However, that stretch of ineptitude has given way to a return to what made the Warriors great in the first place and thus might ultimately serve as the catalyst that pushes the Dubs to claim their second title in three years. And it’s all because Kevin Durant got hurt.
On February 28, Durant left Golden State’s game against the Washington Wizards mere minutes into the matchup due to an unlucky injury that involved a teammate falling backward into Durant’s left knee. Originally feared to be season-ending, the injury turned out to be an MCL sprain exacerbated by a tibial bruise. KD was diagnosed with a four-week recovery, basically indicating to most that his regular season was pretty much over.
As a result, that left the Warriors to play out what would presumably be the remainder of the regular season slate without their prized signing from the offseason. You know…the guy they didn’t really need in the first place and probably wouldn’t have even signed had they not blown the 3-1 advantage in the Finals to the Cavs. Now, after losing five of seven following KD’s injury, the Warriors are on a tear, having won 13 in a row and scoring at least 120 points in each of their last three games.
Getting back to the bascis, the Warriors have run through the Splash Brothers in recent weeks and have been fueled by Draymond Green’s tenacity down low. The Warriors (65-14) have already clinched the NBA’s best regular season record and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, Durant, who was having a First-Team All-NBA-caliber season prior to his injury, hasn’t played since February.
Interestingly enough, the Warriors are better now than they were just prior to Durant’s injury, and it’s certainly no fault of Durant’s. The Warriors have had to bear down since Durant left the lineup, as their depth and star power was as low as it had been in quite some time. The Warriors still sport the best roster in basketball without Durant, and not having him in the rotation for such a long period of time will likely have a medicine ball effect for them.
With Durant, the Warriors frequently coasted to victories this season, often sacrificing intense defensive play due to the reality that they could score at will against any team. During Durant’s layoff, that wasn’t the case, as the struggles were evident early on. Head coach Steve Kerr was visibly frustrated at times, and the Warriors looked as bad as they had looked in five years. But that forced the Warriors to adapt by getting back to their roots by utilizing their talent to outplay their opponents in every single facet of the game.
Now, with Durant nearing a return, the Warriors will likely be unstoppable. Durant certainly won’t need to rush back and will likely come off of the bench if he opts to play in some of the final games of the regular season and may even do so in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, part of the controversy surrounding the Durant signing of this past summer is that the basketball world felt that the Dubs didn’t need Durant to win titles and were simply signing him to make up for their 2016 NBA Finals meltdown. While that may be the case, it doesn’t change the fact that the NBA’s best team doesn’t even need arguably its best player to still be the best.
Durant’s injury, in addition to reaffirming the fact that the Golden State Warriors are far and away the best team in the league, was a blessing in disguise for the Warriors, and his return to the fold could result in the Warriors dominating the field throughout the playoffs. No other team is playing even close to the quality of basketball that the Warriors are playing right now, and reintroducing one of the NBA’s top players to their roster should cause that quality of basketball to become virtually unbeatable. And it’s all because of an injury that many felt could potentially ruin the Warriors’ championship chances. Instead, it made those chances even better. Welcome to the wacky world of modern-day NBA basketball.