A damp spot on the court didn’t completely wash away the Golden State Warriors’ quest for back-to-back NBA championships.
Things just got a lot more slippery, a few notches less certain.
The Grade 1 MCL sprain in Stephen Curry’s right knee represents the best-case scenario for the Warriors and the millions of fans they’ve accumulated these past six months as the unrivaled best show in sports.
Judging by the way Curry grabbed his knee on the final play of Sunday’s first half against Houston, a moment that brought to mind NaVorro Bowman in the 2014 NFC championship, one might even say the Warriors got off lucky.
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Curry will be sidelined for two weeks, then re-evaluated, according to the team’s timeline. However, that doesn’t mean he will be back on the court in 14 days swishing threes and being his all-around dazzling self. There could be some lag time, depending on his recovery, in addition to legitimate concerns about conditioning and rust.
From our perspective, relatively good news.
Warriors GM Bob Myers, on Stephen Curry’s knee injury
Warriors general manager Bob Myers called the two-week timeline “an educated guess” based on history with that injury.
“We said two weeks, but that’s no guarantee it will be in two weeks,” Myers told reporters Monday afternoon. “It might be after two weeks. It might be before. But I think it’ll be somewhere in that range.”
Fortunately for the Warriors, they don’t need Curry to advance past the first round. Down 3-1 in the series, the Rockets are clearly in Nick Van Exel mode (“One, two, three ... Cancun!”) and likely won’t survive Wednesday’s Game 5 at Oracle Arena.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the NBA can’t be persuaded to hold off the conference semifinals until Curry’s knee is sound.
At this juncture, all we can do is speculate about how many playoff games the soon-to-be two-time MVP will miss.
Except for the Finals, scheduled to begin June 2, there are no set dates for any NBA playoff series. The league office starts each new best-of-seven after both teams have advanced and whenever there’s an open TV time slot.
Except for the Finals, there are no set dates for any NBA playoff series. The league office starts each new best-of-seven after both teams have advanced and whenever there’s an open TV time slot.
Assuming Golden State puts Houston out of its collective misery Wednesday, Game 1 of the Western Conference semis will depend on how long it takes the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, now tied 2-2, to settle matters. If that series goes seven games, the next one likely wouldn’t start until May 3.
The injuries to Chris Paul (broken hand) and Blake Griffin (strained quad) further muddle the playoff picture. Now Portland has the momentum and, it appears, the upper hand.
How many Curry-less games will Golden State have to play? Without guesswork, impossible to say. But if you go off last season’s playoff schedule, Game 4 of the second-round series would take place May 9 – exactly two weeks from Monday.
That means Game 4 would be the soonest Curry could return. I would set Game 5 (or even Game 6) as a more reasonable target.
With Curry and Paul both sidelined, the Warriors would clearly have the edge. That’s not the case against Portland, whose athletic backcourt gives Golden State fits even at full health. A Warriors-Blazers series probably goes seven games, and you have to wonder about the physical toll on Shaun Livingston, playing extended minutes in Curry’s stead, and others going forward.
Last year, the Warriors were fortunate to face Houston in the conference finals. This year it’ll likely be 68-win San Antonio, a formidable obstacle even when Curry is his usual electric self.
We’re not going to bow down or lay down against anyone. We’re gonna continue to try to win basketball games, no matter who’s out there.
Warriors forward Draymond Green
“If Steph Curry’s out, I’d probably write us off, too,” Warriors forward Draymond Green told ESPN radio on Sunday afternoon. “That’s human nature (because) the guy’s the MVP of the league, but we’ve got a team full of competitors.
“We’re not gonna bow down or lay down against anyone. We’re gonna continue to play our game, continue to try to win basketball games, no matter who’s out there.”
If and when Curry returns, there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player who led the NBA in scoring (30.1 points per game) thanks to his uncanny shooting (50.4 percent overall, 45.4 percent from three-point range and 90.8 percent from the foul line) and scintillating ballhandling.
Curry looked plenty rusty Sunday (2 of 9 from the field for six points in 18 minutes) following a seven-day layoff due to his ankle sprain in Game 1. Now double that. It isn’t a pretty scenario.
Just two weeks ago, the biggest question about the Warriors was whether they’d eclipse 72 wins. Now, with the sun of their solar system in street clothes for at least two weeks, they’ll struggle to make it out of the second round.
No one ever said life, or sports, is fair.
For Warriors fans who need someplace to direct their frustration, look no further than Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas. After all, it was Motiejunas who fell to the court (for no reason but his own clumsiness) and created the wet spot that Curry couldn’t avoid.
Curry’s knee injury might be slight, but Golden State’s hopes for a repeat title took a severe slip.