Game 5 of the NBA Finals was the ultimate emotional roller coaster.
With Kevin Durant returning from a calf injury to help the Warriors try to erase a three-games-to-one series deficit, the intensity surrounding the first matchup between a complete Warriors team and the Raptors was ratcheted up.
Durant opened the game looking like the all-time great that he is, pouring in 11 points in 12 minutes.
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Then, early in the second quarter, Durant tried to make a quick move around Serge Ibaka and immediately crumpled to the floor, having ruptured his Achilles tendon.
It was a devastating injury for the soon-to-be free agent. Durant put everything on the line to help the Warriors complete their quest for a three-peat, and it ultimately will cost him next season.
In a recent interview with Time Magazine, head coach Steve Kerr opened up on his immediate reaction to the injury, and the guilt he feels over the decision to play Durant coming off a strained calf.
"My initial thought was he re-injured the calf,” Kerr told Time. “That was our concern going in. I thought, oh God, poor guy, he re-injured the calf, he’s done for the series. He’s playing so well, we look like ourselves. So now he’s gotta do another six weeks of rehab. So there goes the rest of the series. But he’ll be fine."
Golden State Warriors
When Kerr discovered the true extent of the injury at halftime, the mood changed.
“It’s like ‘oh, holy s--t,'” Kerr said. “This is a totally different deal. Something we hadn’t anticipated at all. Had we thought there was any chance his Achilles would be injured, we wouldn’t have thrown him out there. So a combination of devastation for him, and for our team, and dread for the way it all unfolded. It’s just one of those things. You gather all the information you can, you check all the boxes, and you try to make the best decision. And then you do, then this happens, like, my God. Ugh. So I feel partly responsible, even though our process was sound. And it’s a reminder that there are no guarantees in the medical world. You can never be sure of anything.”
While Kerr stands by how the Warriors came to the decision to let KD return, he wishes he could do it differently.
"Absolutely, even though I felt good about the process,” Kerr said. “Because it was a collaborative process. It included our team doctors, even outside doctors, second opinions. Everybody cleared him to play. And nobody thought that the Achilles was vulnerable. Obviously, we don’t make any decisions medically on our own. We’re not doctors. So we gathered all the information we could and collaboratively made that decision. But after the fact, it’s like, I should have just told him he’s not playing.”
“It’s too late,” says Kerr. “But I wish I could go back. I’d do that.”
According to Kerr, the scene in the Dubs' locker room at halftime was a solemn one.
“Every guy was going up and shaking his hand,” Kerr said “Just I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
While the Warriors rallied to win Game 5 in Toronto, they ultimately fell in Game 6 of The Finals and their quest for a three-peat was ended.
A few days after Game 5, Durant announced he had surgery to repair the rupture in New York.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP will be a free agent this summer, and it's unlikely that his injury will cost him a shot at a max contract.
Still, Kerr and the Warriors would like to have the decision back.