Kevin Durant calf injury could cloud closing lineup

With the news that Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes are questionable for Game 2 Wednesday, the Warriors are facing some tough questions going forward.

Durant is obviously the biggest news, as Kerr said he missed practice Tuesday with a calf injury. After coming back from his knee injury he’s played an average of 30.3 minutes per game, which is kind of a lot after such a long layoff, and that bumped up to 36 minutes in Game 1.

Reinjuring his knee isn’t the concern with the high-minute totals, it’s if his knee is not 100 percent, how does the rest of his body compensate for that loss? And we got our answer with this calf strain.

Now is the time for the Warriors to get Durant fully, 100 percent, no doubt about it healthy and not have a repeat of what Stephen Curry went through last playoffs.

But what does his injury do for their present series? Let’s take a look.

More time for the rook

First as we saw during the regular season rookie Patrick McCaw will likely get the bulk of the minutes at small forward. Barnes figures to get some as well once he’s back, but that might not be for another couple games.

McCaw averaged more than 20 minutes a game while Durant was sidelined and while his stats weren’t awesome — around four points per game on 45 percent shooting — he didn’t look out of place. That time will come in handy now that he’s being counted on to provide minutes in the playoffs, since the Warriors aren’t throwing an untested rookie into the fray.

Aggressive Andre should once again return

Iguodala really punched up his scoring totals while Durant was out, averaging more than 12 points per game on close to 60 percent shooting. But in Game 1, he took just one shot and scored two points. It’s no secret an aggressive Iguodala makes the Warriors’ ceiling almost limitless, and they were 19-3 in the regular season when he scored in double figures.

Without Durant’s automatic 20-plus points, it will be a must that Iguodala shifts back into attack mode. Especially with Klay Thompson off to such a rough start shooting the ball, Iguodala will need to press the issue during that second quarter stretch when Curry is out.

Who’s the fifth closer?

With Barnes possibly out with Durant the Warriors list of small forwards consist of McCaw and Iguodala and that’s it. McCaw seems the most likely to take the last spot in the death lineup but that also allows Harkless or Aminu to use their size against the slight rookie and become actual scoring threats.

Zaza Pachulia might get a few more minutes, but it’s hard to envision him being much of a factor against the quicker, smaller Blazers. David West is also a possibility but he has the same problems as Pachulia, namely foot speed when guarding on the perimeter.

This might open the door for Kerr favorite James Michael McAdoo to earn some court time. He could see some run at the four or five spot next to Draymond Green, possibly even in a closing lineup since Portland will probably continue to play small, which is McAdoo’s strength.

If everybody is out, the Warriors will potentially have just 11 healthy bodies, with Kevon Looney still nursing his hip injury. And of those 11, five of them are centers, which means someone is going to have to play out of position.

Maximum minutes

The most impactful fallout from these injuries might be the heavy use of the starters. Kerr is notorious for using his entire bench, 12 players saw the court in Game 1, but he might have to abandon his strategy and just lean heavily on his stars. It would not be a shock to see Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Green approach 40 minutes, especially if it’s a close game. It’s the simplest answer and would probably be the most effective, particularly because the Warriors have a two-game break until Game 3.

But as we all saw during Game 7 of the Finals last year, Kerr really sticks to his guns when it comes to minutes, and if he wasn’t willing to go all out then, it’s tough to imagine him doing it in the first round. It may be for the best, the Warriors should win this series going away, with or without Durant. So maxing out starters’ minutes, if even for a game or two, may have consequences down the line, and it’s just not worth risking it because of an overreaction.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.