TORONTO — Tired, wounded and facing a daunting 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals, the Golden State Warriors are in desperate need of a boost. Needless to say, Kevin Durant’s long-anticipated return would fit the bill.

The All-Star forward briefly practiced Sunday, setting up a possible return Monday night for Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors. Durant, who is listed as questionable after missing Golden State’s past nine games after suffering a strained right calf May 8, watched as Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors seized command of the series by winning Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, California.

“He’s going to practice with us and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ll gauge it from there. What he’s going to do (Sunday) he hasn’t done (before). He’s doing more today and then we’ll know more after that.”

Word of Durant’s progress and possible return came after days filled with murky updates about his health and reports that the Warriors were growing frustrated with his continued absence. As Durant’s return timetable seemed to shift between Games 3 and 4, Kerr said Durant hadn’t suffered a setback but added that the team would be more tight-lipped about its injury updates to prevent mixed signals.

Durant, who has been around the Warriors and traveled with them throughout the finals, hasn’t addressed the media during the series and didn’t take questions Sunday. In the vacuum created by his injury and silence, Durant’s status as an upcoming free agent and months of rumors about a possible offseason departure have led outsiders to speculate about his motivations.

Before Game 4, he posted a cryptic horoscope message to his Instagram account. “False information doesn’t become true just because it’s repeated,” the message read.

There’s no question Durant will be of great use if and when he returns, even if in a limited state. Golden State’s rhythm and confidence have been hampered by injuries, with Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala all playing through various ailments. Stephen Curry began to show signs of exhaustion during Game 4 as the Warriors scored 92 points, their lowest of the postseason, and struggled to contain Leonard, who notched 36 points.

“We made a lot of defensive mistakes that seemed borne from the frustration and maybe fatigue,” Kerr said. “We’re playing guys heavy minutes and all that stuff. That’s why I’m pleased that there will be two (off) days before (Game 5) and the next couple after that, if we can keep extending the series. As we get healthier and have some time to heal and rest, I like our chances.”

A Durant return would ease Curry’s burden, rebalance Golden State’s offense, give Kerr an isolation scoring threat to help unlock Toronto’s defense, and provide a long defensive option against Leonard or Pascal Siakam. On an even more basic level, Durant would help fill minutes. Kerr has had to rely on backup forwards Alfonzo McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko, who have been badly overmatched against the Raptors.


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