OAKLAND, Calif. — The crowd at first did not seem to realize what had happened. Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant took a couple of healthy-looking lopes downcourt after shooting a baseline jumper over Houston’s Iman Shumpert late in the third quarter of Game 5 on Wednesday.
Then Durant began limping.
With 2 minutes 11 seconds left in the third quarter, he hobbled off the court and into the locker room as the Oracle Arena crowd hushed and Twitter roared — with panic, with prayers, with armchair diagnoses.
The team would later announce that Durant had strained his right calf, but N.B.A. fans couldn’t help speculating that the injury had been worse: a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said after the game that he had “thought the same thing.”
“I’ve been assured it was the calf and not the Achilles’,” Kerr said in his postgame news conference.
Durant is expected to have a magnetic resonance imaging examination on Thursday.
Though the Warriors went on to beat the Rockets, 104-99, to take a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, Durant’s injury could still alter the rest of this series and the N.B.A. off-season.
Game 6 will be at 9 p.m. Friday in Houston, where the Warriors lost two consecutive games before bouncing back to win Wednesday. Game 7, if necessary, will be Sunday in Oakland. If Durant is unable to play for either or both games, the Warriors’ pursuit of a third straight N.B.A. title may be in trouble.
Durant has been the team’s best player, by far, in the playoffs, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have struggled from their signature range — beyond the 3-point arc — and while finishing at the rim. Curry missed his first four shots Wednesday and ended the night with 25 points on 9-of-23 shooting from the field. He was 3 of 11 from 3-point range.
“Steph went into a new mode when Kev went out,” Kerr said, and added, “It wasn’t a great night for him before that, but he was absolutely brilliant in the fourth.”
Thompson was better on Wednesday, scoring a team-high 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field. He was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers.
But the inconsistency of Thompson and Curry throughout the series makes it reasonable to wonder whether they can make up for the loss of Durant, should he be unable to play.
Durant scored 22 points in 32 minutes before his injury.
TNT’s Allie LaForce reported on air after the game that the Warriors would wait for the results of Thursday’s M.R.I. before deciding whether Durant would travel to Houston with the team for Game 6.
But the implications of Durant’s injury extend beyond the playoffs. He will be the most sought-after free agent this summer if he chooses to opt out of his contract. Durant has won the Most Valuable Player Award for the league (2014) and the N.B.A. finals (2017, 2018). He went into Wednesday’s game averaging a team-high 35.4 points per game in the playoffs.