OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson is expected to return for Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, league sources told Yahoo Sports, after Golden State made the difficult decision to hold him out right before Wednesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Thompson, who is nursing a left hamstring injury he suffered in Game 2, lobbied management and the coaching staff to let him play.
A few hours after announcing Thompson would be held out as a precautionary measure, the Warriors suffered an ugly 123-109 loss as the Raptors took a 2-1 series lead.
“The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out of the rest of the series,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “So that was the decision we made, and I feel very comfortable with it. Never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you make, you make a wise decision, the wisest one you can, and then you live with it and move forward. So the good thing is Klay has done well the last two days, now he has a couple more days to heal, and hopefully he'll be out there [for Game 4] on Friday.”
Generally, whenever a prominent player has deemed himself physically capable of performing at a high level in the Finals, the team grants the request and monitors his condition throughout the contest.
During the Warriors’ five-year championship run, they have had the luxury of playing up to four elite players with unmatched skill sets. They also have experience rallying from series deficits.
That history had to have played a part in the Warriors’ decision to err on the side of caution with Thompson.
But did the Warriors take that approach too far? Did they indeed err?
Trotting out Stephen Curry as the lone potent offensive weapon while DeMarcus Cousins continues to work himself into the mix against one of the deepest teams in the league was essentially a white flag.
Curry had a magical performance, pouring in a postseason career-high 47 points and scoring 43.1 percent of his team’s points. Draymond Green (17) and Andre Iguodala (11) were the only other Warriors who scored in double digits.
“You got to try to have a ‘next man up’ mentality, like we always say,” Curry said. “And just go out and fight.”
The Warriors’ slogan is “Strength in Numbers,” and they’ve had success in the past with role players stepping up and delivering. But this year’s squad lacks the depth of the Warriors’ previous four teams that advanced to the finals. Losing backup center Kevon Looney for the rest of the Finals because of a collarbone fracture further complicates matters.
With Thompson returning for Game 4, the question now turns to how they Warriors will handle Kevin Durant.
It has been a month since Durant strained his right calf in Game 5 of the semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He has ramped up his recovery process in the past week, and on Thursday he will run some 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 games with teammates and members of the coaching staff for the first time to test how much he has healed, sources said.
If Durant decides he wants to give it a go on Friday, does the team allow him to play or does it repeat the same cautious approach that was forced upon Thompson?
“I'm sure people are happy they're hurt,” Green said. “We just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”
The Raptors are not lying down, and the Warriors are not the team they once were. Additionally, wins are not guaranteed once both stars return because they more than likely will still be hobbled.
Golden State can’t afford to travel back to Toronto for Game 5 down 3-1, and throwing Durant out there on the road to debut in these Finals under those circumstances would likely be too late. If Durant desires to play in Game 4, he should be given that right.
It’s the Finals.
If the Warriors are upset by the Raptors, the subject would swiftly shift to how being overly cautious might have cost this team a championship.
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