Would the Golden State Warriors be the ones that had the Toronto Raptors on the ropes in the NBA Finals if they’d had the services of Kevin Durant? Well, that may have been the case – but I’d have been more confident about it under the condition that there would not be so much drama hanging around the former MVP. As we speak, and following a long absence, he may be appearing back on the scene in an attempt to save the day, an effort that may very accurately fit the description of “too little, too late.”
After having gone through a practice session on Sunday, head coach Steve Kerr has mentioned the possibility that Durant – who has won the league’s MVP award, and been named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals the last two seasons – might be available on Monday night, and he is officially listed as “questionable” for action.
Is it a matter of “hooray, the cavalry has returned,” or “any port in a storm”? At this desperate juncture,as they are down three games to one and face elimination, they might as well break out all the weapons they possibly can. Of course, that would have worked better a couple of games ago.
So we approach tip-off at 9:05 PM ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, with ABC showing us the pictures.
Here are the NBA Finals betting odds for Game 5. They are from BetAnySports, and they include “reduced juice,” which offers the best value deal at any online sportsbook, because you can effectively avoid having to lay the standard -110 on games like this:
Toronto Raptors -1.5 (-108)
Golden State Warriors +1.5 (-102)
Over 214.5 points (-105)
Under 214.5 points (-105)
One writer covering this series began his piece today with the following line:
“Not playing in the NBA Finals has been the best thing to happen to Kevin Durant’s reputation.”
And that is one of the problems here. The idea that anyone around the situation would be thinking in those terms is bad news. But don’t think that kind of question hasn’t crossed Durant’s mind, or the minds of his “peeps.” And if you operate on that assumption, then you have to ask how much he’s been calculating that in anticipation of going on the open market this summer.
He is immensely talented, but there has been tension because I’m not sure his teammates have ever believed that he’s been “all-in.” The altercation between him and Draymond Green earlier in the season was telling, because if that was what emerged in public, just think of what was going on in private.
We don’t really want to beat it to death, although it seems one can’t help it. At the outset of the series we covered the essence of the drama with this story.
Since that piece, we’ve obviously had developments. Every day, there has been a report that Durant MIGHT be ready for some subsequent game. His teammates have played through a lot of pain. Andre Iguodala has done it with his own calf injury. Klay Thompson pulled a hamstring in Game 2 and practically begged coach Steve Kerr to let him play Game 3 (he was denied that). Kevon Looney has fractured ribs (imagine how painful that is), was written off for the series, yet still managed to put himself in uniform for Game 4.
So if you are asking me whether there are enough whispers about why Durant hasn’t been able to bring himself to the point of suiting up, I would answer in the affirmative.
Yet he is very much active in terms of the gossip about which destination he will run off to next. Charles Barkley has already weighed in about Durant as a prospective New York Knick or Brooklyn Net, citing his combativeness as it has appeared on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“If he’s arguing with these teenagers online, he’s not going to be able to deal with that New York media,” Barkley said. “He’s a great person. He’s a great player. I don’t think he has the mental makeup to play in New York. That’s just my personal opinion.”
Mental makeup. Ah yes, that’s a part of this game too, right? Maybe right up there with all those analytics you can punch up on dozens of websites?
As we alluded to a moment ago, Durant has all the talent in the world, and was leading all playoff scorers at over 32 points per game when he got hurt. But what his team has needed against a Toronto team that is playing at a higher level is someone who would throw himself under a moving train to deliver a victory. He hasn’t been able to get himself there, and it might just be because he’s more concerned with what happens beyond all this.
But let’s talk about what happens if he does indeed get the go-ahead to suit up and play. He has basically had ONE practice in the last five weeks, and we are told that was a brief outing. To think he could go a lot of minutes, with an injury and a layoff, would be wildly optimistic. And to think he’s just going to roll out of the locker room nailing jumpers is kind of preposterous as well. He’s going to have to get settled in and settled down, which can only come with minutes. And the conundrum is that this team can’t afford for him to take a lot of time before he finds his “rhythm.” Toronto has players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol who have been on All-Defensive teams. They’ll give him a headache.
And I’m not sure the atmosphere surrounding the Warriors’ camp about his willingness (or lack of same) to play hurt is going to give this club a magical, emotional lift. It’s likely that the mood doesn’t support it (prediction – you’re going to hear a LOT of juicy stories when this is all over).
In other words, this isn’t like “The Natural,” where the hero, Roy Hobbs, gets out of a hospital bed to hit the winning home run. I don’t think a fantasy like that is in the cards.
On both ends of the floor, Durant could prove a liability if he is rusty, which, given the circumstances, would seem inevitable.
And you’re in good shape, because you’ve got the public to help you out. Upon nothing more than the prospect that Durant will play, the line moved Golden State’s way, to the point where, if you interpret it correctly, it tells you that this team, at THIS moment, is better than Toronto on a neutral floor. That isn’t the case, not the way the Raptors have been playing defense. Not only that, but the way they have seized the mental edge, because let’s face it – when you beat the two-time defending champions twice on their floor, by double digits, you are on top of the mental part, to say the least.
So this is a rare opportunity to get some genuine value in a number, and perhaps you should jump on it quickly, before they tell you Durant will sit this one out too.
As for me, I’m in the “so what?” club. Whether he plays or not, I have to side with Toronto. If he’s in there, however, it might just make it easier.
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