CLEVELAND: Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut will miss the remainder of the NBA Finals with multiple bone bruises in his left knee, the defending NBA champions announced on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The Warriors lead Cleveland 3-2 in the best-of-seven series but lost a chance to clinch Monday in game five and will lack their biggest inside man for game six Thursday at Cleveland and a potential game seven Sunday back in California.
“It’s bad news. Boges has made an impact in this series,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Last two we played him fewer minutes, but still he’s a defensive presence at the rim and rebounder and a great passer. So we’ll miss the minutes he has been giving us.”
The Warriors said that Bogut will not require surgery but will need a minimum of six to eight weeks to recover, meaning he could be healthy in time to play for Australia’s Boomers at the Rio Olympics in August.
The Australian 7-footer (2.13m) suffered the injury Monday at Oakland early in the third quarter of game five when leaping to try and block a shot by Cleveland’s J.R. Smith, who struck Bogut’s leg, causing him to land awkwardly on his left leg.
He writhed in pain on the court holding his knee until being helped off the court. An MRI exam Tuesday showed deep bruises to his proximal tibia and distal femur bones.
“It’s tough not to have Boges out there,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who will return after being suspended for game five due to accumulated flagrant fouls.
“He’s a great defensive player, a great facilitator. It definitely hurts. We’re going to miss him but one thing we talk about is our depth. It’s an opportunity to step up. Nobody is going to be Bogut but you give to this team what you can give.”
Nigerian Festus Ezeli will fill-in for Bogut, with Brazilian big man Anderson Varejao, a long-time Cavaliers center, being called upon as well.
“Festus will play a role, so will Andy. Everybody has got to be ready,” Kerr said. “Festus hasn’t had big minutes in this series. But with Bogut out, his minutes will definitely climb. I feel very confident playing Festus and he will play an important role in the rest of the series.”
Bogut, who is expected to make a full recovery, blocked six shots in game two, the most in a finals game since Pau Gasol in 2010, and averages 3.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in the finals. For the playoffs, Bogut has averaged 4.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists.
“It’s different with Boges out. We’re going to have different rotations, especially in the starting lineup, so we’ve got to make adjustments,” said Warriors star guard and NBA scoring leader Stephen Curry.
No changes for Cavaliers
Bogut’s absence doesn’t change anything for how the Cavaliers will play, Cleveland star LeBron James said.
“We want to continue to attack,” James said. “Even with Bogut out, they still have so much firepower that it doesn’t take any of the focus out of our mind going into game six.”
The Warriors will miss Bogut’s ability to force rivals to alter shots and dominate inside, said Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who like James scored 41 points in game five.
“Having that rim protection with Andrew is big for them,” Irving said. “We’ll stick with our offensive game plan. He won’t be in there, but they will have to make adjustments as well as us. We’ll be ready.”
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love expects James and Irving to try and drive inside even more with Bogut gone.