Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury Tuesday night and is now out for at least the next four weeks. Can the San Antonio Spurs take advantage?
No one likes when a player gets injured. No one likes when one of the league’s stars will miss significant time. But the San Antonio Spursprobably like the fact they have a real chance at the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference following Kevin Durant‘s injury.
Now San Antonio just has to capitalize on their favorable circumstances.
*Knock on wood*
Right now the Spurs are healthy. Pau Gasol is back from injury and playing well, averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games off the bench since the break.
And with the reserves and young guys they have, they can always rest a veteran every once in a while to keep everyone fresh.
Obviously, the Golden State Warriors are not healthy. And they are not quite as deep as the Spurs. While pulling Andre Iguodala up to the starting lineup and playing Shaun Livingston a little more aren’t bad contingency plans, they are not going to provide what KD did.
To make matters worse for Golden State, they do not have an easy road ahead in terms of travel and opponents. Ten of their final 22 games are on the road and 11 of them are against teams currently in the playoff picture.
The Spurs, meanwhile, get to play 15 of their final 23 games at home.
Getting to stay at home is key when you’re a team with a lot of older players (Spurs) or don’t have a lot of depth (Warriors). Just one skid on a road trip for Golden State can lead to the Spurs securing home court throughout.
The Spurs and Warriors play each other twice more this year, both games in Texas, and the Spurs already hold the advantage after their win over Golden State the first game of the season.
With the first of the two remaining games being on March 11 we definitely won’t see Durant make an appearance. The final matchup will be on March 29, exactly four weeks from Wednesday. It would be unlikely for Durant to make it back for this game, especially as a starter.
Not only should these games help the Spurs in terms of passing the Warriors in total wins, it should give them the advantage in case the teams finish with the same record.
How It Will Play Out
The Spurs are currently 3½ games back of first with 23 games remaining on their schedule. At worst I see them going 15-8. But even without Durant that will not be enough, as the Warriors would have to go 11-11 to end the season for San Antonio to pass them.
A more likely scenario though is Golden State wins 15-16 games, meaning the Spurs need 19-20 wins and to keep the tiebreaker to take first. A tall order indeed. But with a current winning percentage of 78 percent, bumping that to 83 percent (19-43) isn’t that great a leap.
It won’t be easy. It will take some amazing basketball and a little luck. But the San Antonio Spurs do have a chance to take first place. Of course, the Warriors won’t go down without a fight.
They still boast one of the league’s top starting lineups with quality reserves off the bench, even without Durant. And there’s still a possibility Durant could see some action in the last week or two of the season. Just don’t count the Spurs out quite yet.