Durant Injury Could Turn NBA Playoffs Betting on Its Head
There was one factor potentially standing in the way of the Golden State Warriors and a third consecutive championship, and it happened Wednesday night.
Kevin Durant suffered a mild right calf strain late in the third quarter of the Warriors’ Game 5 victory over the Houston Rockets, an MRI confirmed on Thursday.
Kevin Durant goes to the locker room after suffering an apparent non-contact injury on lower leg pic.twitter.com/JCLv3szwz8— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2019
Durant will be re-evaluated in a week, meaning he’ll miss Game 6 on Friday in Houston and a potential Game 7 in Golden State on Sunday.
Considering that’s when he’ll be reevaluated, not a return date, Durant is in real jeopardy of missing time in the Western Conference Finals if the Warriors are able to advance that far.
Odds Shift Dramatically in Wake of Durant’s Injury
Oddsmakers wasted no time shifting the Warriors’ championship odds in the wake of Durant’s injury.
888sport moved the Warriors from -162 to +115 in the wake of Durant’s injury, an incredible shift considering they won last night and are one game away from the Western Conference Finals.
Also, despite leading 3-2 in the series, the Warriors are just -240 to advance. Those odds are minuscule compared to the Raptors (-625) and Nuggets (-435), both of whom are also higher seeds with 3-2 series advantages. The importance of Durant and his health can’t be understated.
On an even more micro scale, the Warriors are 7.5-point underdogs in Game 6. That’s significant because it’s the largest spread Steve Kerr’s Warriors have ever faced as underdogs in the postseason. For those updated odds, spreads and more check out our live NBA odds page!
It’s also the biggest underdog spread the Warriors have faced this season. It had previously been as 4-point underdogs to the Rockets in November while they were without Steph Curry. The result? A 107-86 Rockets win.
Durant had been Warriors’ MVP
The Warriors were built to handle one injury. The Warriors were 26-11 – the third best record in the NBA - before DeMarcus Cousins returned in January from a torn Achilles suffered the previous year.
And since Cousins’ quad injury suffered early in Game 2 against the LA Clippers, the Warriors have gone 6-3 with the best net rating in the West.
They were built to withstand one injury, especially to a player who wasn’t around for the previous two titles. Ironically, Durant’s injury happened two days after Cousins said he was planning to return at some point this postseason, but it remains to be seen how much of that is medically accurate and how much is wishful thinking on his end.
But the Durant injury could change everything. He had been the most efficient scorer in the postseason, averaging 35.4 points on .518/.429/.906 shooting.
No player had ever averaged 35 points on 50/40/90 shooting in the history of the NBA Playoffs, and yet Durant was doing it against stiff competition in the West.
More important than his shooting numbers – he was also averaging 5.0 assists and 3.0 3-pointers – was Durant’s impact on the defensive end.
In 10 playoff games, he was averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game and the Warriors had been a whopping 11.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Durant on the floor.
When Durant sat, the Warriors defense allowed a ghastly 122.0 points per 100 possessions. For as impressive as Durant’s scoring has been, the Warriors may miss his defense even more.
Even though the injury isn’t Achilles-related – which would be excellent news for the Warriors and Durant, an impending free agent this summer – he’s not out of the woods even with the calf injury. That could still be a season-ender for the two-time reigning Finals MVP.
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Warriors Still 2019 Title Favorites
Remarkably, the Warriors are still favorites to win the 2019 NBA title based on the latest NBA futures odds. Even though Cousins and Durant are injured – what other team could withstand significant injuries to two All-Stars? – the Warriors are still the team to beat.
After Durant left with the calf strain, Curry went to work and showed why he’s a two-time MVP and three-time champion. He took over Game 5 at a time when the Warriors were unraveling, having given up a 20-point first-half lead. Instead, Curry calmed his group and led them to a critical victory.
Final totals for Stephen Curry before/after Kevin Durant injury ...— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) May 9, 2019
Before: 9 points, 4-14 shooting, 1-8 3s
After: 16 points, 5-9 shooting, 2-3 3s
Klay Thompson also came to life, scoring a team-high 27 points and knocking down a crucial 3-pointer in the final 3 minutes to extend Golden State’s lead to eight. Draymond Green has also been his old self this postseason, averaging 13.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.1 assists this postseason.
Remember, it was just these three – no Durant or Cousins – when they won the first title in 2015. Maybe they’ll prove that they’re just fine without either of the free-agents-to-be and achieve that three-peat all on their own.
Then again, Durant could make significant progress in the next week and be ready for the Western Conference Finals.
Even if Durant isn’t back, the Warriors would be heavy favorites over the Nuggets or Blazers. It sounds incredible, but the Warriors are still the team to beat.
About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.