OAKLAND, Calif. — If the Golden State Warriors lose Game 6 on Thursday and watch the Toronto Raptors celebrate the franchise’s first NBA championship on their home court, it won’t be due to lack of motivation.
Not only is Game 6 the last ever NBA game at Oracle Arena — one the Warriors need to win to avoid losing their second Finals series in five years — but now they also have an extra source of motivation: “Play for K.”
The “K,” of course, refers to Kevin Durant, who returned from a calf injury in Game 5 only to rupture his Achilles early in the second quarter. that he had successful surgery on Wednesday, and the Warriors discussed how their injured star will provide a source of inspiration for a must-win game.
“We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle we’re about to give our fans,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said on Wednesday. “And I expect our fans to be the loudest they have ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit he would bring to the fight and the competitiveness. I know our fans will do that because we deserve it, but more importantly Kevin does for what he gave this team, this organization. There wouldn’t be banners if it wasn’t for his presence. So we expect our crowd to be loud for him.”
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr expounded on the information that led to the decision to play Durant, saying that the Warriors’ medical staff, an outside doctor, Durant’s business partner Rich Kleiman and Durant himself all arrived at the decision that he was healthy enough to play.
“Now, would we go back and do it over again? Damn right,” Kerr said on Wednesday. “But that’s easy to say after the results. When we gathered all the information, our feeling was the worst thing that could happen would be a re-injure of the calf. That was the advice and the information that we had. At that point, once Kevin was cleared to play, he was comfortable with that, we were comfortable with that. So the Achilles came as a complete shock. I don’t know what else to add to that, other than had we known that this was a possibility, that this was even in the realm of possibility, there’s no way we ever would have allowed Kevin to come back.”
The Warriors’ tone was somber throughout Wednesday’s media availability, knowing that in addition to the personal devastation they feel for Durant, his presence will be sorely missed on the court. Durant looked phenomenal in his return, scoring 11 points in 11 minutes before disaster struck. Golden State will have to go back to life without KD, where the team — outside of Stephen Curry and Thompson — has struggled to put the ball in the basket at times during the Finals.
But the crowd will be fervent in the last game in the NBA’s oldest arena, and Curry says the team will be up to the task, thanks in large part to the compassion they feel for Durant.
“I don’t think much needs to be said about the motivation that we have or are going to have tomorrow,” Curry said on Wednesday. “Like Klay said, to protect our home court, feed off our crowd’s energy, play for K and try to keep our season alive. There are a lot of things that you can kind of tap into for energy tomorrow. We’ll be ready.”