Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks with a sprained MCL and bone bruise on his left leg, injuries suffered during the first quarter of a 112-108 loss in Washington on Tuesday.
Given how scary the play looked – Marcin Gortat fouled Zaza Pachulia, who fell into Durant’s leg – the Golden State Warriors couldn’t be happier.
“They’re relieved,” The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They’re relieved because there was a lot of fear last night it was much worse. There was fear of a fracture of the knee. It turned out to be a bruise. He’s got the sprained MCL. They’re just glad that they have a good opportunity here to get him back this season. Now whether he can play again in the regular season remains to be seen. It’s going to simply be built on his recovery and how the knee comes along, but they have a real confidence that he’ll be back for the playoffs.”
Without Durant, the Warriors (50-10) will need Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to play more minutes if they hope to secure the top seed in the West. Golden State leads San Antonio (45-13) by four games entering play March 1.
Wojnarowski thinks the Warriors will be just fine.
“They’re built better than any team – maybe any team ever, but certainly any team of this generation – to withstand an injury to one of their key guys for four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, and still have enough in the lineup to continue winning at a high level,” Wojnarowski said. “This isn’t exactly the team that won 70+ games last year. There were some other pieces that had to be let go to sign Durant, but it’s still the core, the star players. I don’t get a sense from talking to people around the league today that everybody thinks there’s some great opening. I still think they feel Golden State is the best team.
“Even if Durant didn’t return this year, you could still make a case that they could get to the Finals and maybe still win it,” Wojnarowski continued. “Now it would be a lot harder. Maybe they wouldn’t be the favorite, but you wouldn’t be able to rule them out. So the fact that Durant is expected to be back for the playoffs, it feels a little business as usual here, that the Warriors dodged a significant bullet here.”
Washington, meanwhile, could pose the biggest threat to Cleveland in the East. The Wizards’ road record (10-15) won’t intimidate anyone, but they’re tough to beat at home. Washington is 25-8 at the Verizon Center.
“Scott Brooks has really got that team playing together, paying hard,” Wojnarowski said. “A lot of the issues that had been there between John Wall and Bradley Beal, it’s amazing when you’re winning, it all goes away. The issues of discord and whose team is it and who’s getting shots at key times – that’s all kind of washed away with this team. That, as much as anything, was what had held them back, outside of injuries. But this is a team feeling pretty good about itself right now.”
Washington (35-23) trails Boston (38-22) by two games for the No. 2 seed in the East and trails Cleveland (41-17) by six games for No. 1.