As perfect as the regular season had been for the Golden State Warriors with their record setting achievement, the 2015-16 post-season has been an unpredictable injury mess for their MVP leading man. On Sunday, Steph Curry returned from an ankle injury and one hour later, in a freaky slip on the court, he did the splits and then whacked his knee on the floor, reinforcing the narrative that he is fragile. Curry didn’t play in the second half and left the arena, and after a prayer with friends he limped out of Houston with optimism that a Monday MRI would not be disastrous.
Courtesy of a wet floor, perhaps the Warriors house came crashing down. If nothing else, it was a turn of events that had Steve Kerr morbidly depressed in the post-game interview. Yes, the Warriors whipped the Rockets after Steph went out; they gathered themselves in the second half and looked like the champions they are, filled with rage and bravado and confidence. But Kerr was feeling anything but victorious. He said, “I feel sorry for Steph”. His eyes became dim and shuttered as he absorbed the impact of what may be a catastrophic turn of events. His face said it all, clothed in paradox. Happy for the win, worried about the future. This Curry knee injury may be worse than what everyone thinks, worse than a few days of recovery. It may rob Curry of a huge chunk of the post-season. Or all of it. And a title.
Uh-oh. Or as they say in my hood, holy f*#k. The team that rode the luck coattails last year can’t catch a break.
Put that aside for a moment. This series with the Rockets is pretty much in the bag. There isn’t much entertainment value watching James Harden either jack up a bunch of shots or Dwight Howard have a throwback 19 minutes. Yes, the Rockets did come back from a 3-1 deficit last year against the Clippers but that was the Clippers. No one expects the Warriors to not close out the Rockets on Wednesday. The only intrigue, besides how the Rockets are going to blow this messy team up in the summer, is what about Steph?
A grade one knee sprain, so said the MRI, and he’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks. The Clippers-Blazers series looks like it will go six which will give the Warriors a week off for Steph to heal. But that second week will put Steph’s return, if everything heals right, in the middle of the second round, probably against the Clippers.
“When you have a team that is as together as ours is and cares about each other like ours does, you tend to pick the fight a little bit.” (Steve Kerr)
Klay Thompson acknowledged the Warriors could make it work in the short term. Shaun Livingston would be a starter on many other teams so having him run the show is a necessary band-aid and a Warriors exhale. But let’s be clear. Livingston isn’t Steph. Steph makes the game so much easier for everyone else because he draws multiple defenders which gifts his teammates with uncontested shots and high velocity passes. And his shooting is ridiculously accurate and a game changer.
Steph is Steph, but you can’t ignore what the Warriors did to the Rockets in the third quarter with their intensity level through the roof. They took the Rockets heart after a 18-11 run in the first five minutes of the quarter, capped off by three Draymond Green triples. The Dubs never looked back. They brought their arrogance and their swag and then when it all was over, it was a bittersweet reality. Because they play for each other, the obvious didn’t need to be repeated.
Who is lucky now?
photo via llananba