The Golden State Warriors are down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, but may have gained a glimmer of hope with some news on Sunday morning. All-Star forward Kevin Durant has been cleared to practice after being sidelined with a calf injury since the second round against the Houston Rockets.

He will reportedly work out with the teams younger players, and it seems unlikely he’ll be running any extended or contact action. For these reasons, it still remains nearly impossible he plays in Game 5 (though coach Steve Kerr wouldn’t officially rule him out.)

In all likelihood, the Warriors will need to win Game 5 in Toronto to extend the series and perpetuate the possibility of a Durant return to the floor.

Golden State is more than capable of winning without Durant, but the Raptors have their eyes set on a Game 5 close-out in Toronto, Canada. The stakes should make the game a thriller, and I could see either team emerging victorious on Monday night.

But for Durant’s sake, let’s say the Warriors extend the series. Due to the location shift back to Golden State, Game 6 would be three days later, on Thursday night. This would hypothetically give Durant half a week of practice to ease back into basketball action. Even if he’s less than his 100% self on Thursday, it would still be worth having the former MVP on the court in a do-or-die situation.

Durant’s return wouldn’t have to be the 30+ point game we’d normally expect from him. Just adding him to the rotation, getting a few solid offensive possessions, and playing some defense on Kawhi Leonard could be enough to swing a close game in the Warriors favor. Even with the knowledge that he’s not at 100%, he would demand defensive attention from the Raptors, and likely from Leonard himself. This could free up some space for Curry and Klay Thompson, opening up the Warriors offensive gameplan.

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Raptors Take Commanding 3-1 Lead over Warriors

Even at worst case scenario, it’s not like the Warriors have had a consistent offensive flow over the first four games of the Finals. If they did, perhaps Durant’s arrival could disrupt the offense. But as inconsistent as it’s been, Durant’s addition certainly couldn’t hurt.

So say the Warriors get Durant back and hold down home-court in Game 6… it could make for an epic meeting in Game 7 with an NBA Championship on the line. Game 7 would be next Sunday night, giving Durant more time to resume normal basketball operations.

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Header Photo: Jim Mone/AP

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