After Stephen Curry tweaked his ankle in Game 1 vs. the Houston Rockets on Saturday, he went to the locker room several times. He did not start the second half and missed the final two quarters, despite trying to talk coach Steve Kerr into returning. The Warriors announced that Curry was “available” to return, but Kerr and the staff, with Golden State cruising by more than 20 points, wisely elected not to mess around with it, and sat him.
Kerr called Curry questionable for Game 2, while Curry said he couldn’t envision a scenario in which hew wouldn’t play. There’s still every reason to think Curry will start Game 2, that he will play normal minutes in Game 2, and that he will dominate Game 2 like he did in the first half of the Warriors’ 104-78 victory over the Rockets to take a 1-0 lead in their best of seven series. Curry scored 24 points, making him the game’s leading scorer despite playing less than 20 minutes (the last player to do this in the playoffs was Ray Allen in 2013), while time and again rising to the challenge of physical defense from Patrick Beverley. Basically, Curry picked up where he left off in the Western Conference finals last year, slicing the Rockets to pieces with off-ball movement en route to five 3-pointers.
However, this game did provide a reminder of how close the Warriors still are to this magical, incredible season falling apart. It reminds us that the Warriors are not invincible, even if they seem like it sometimes. Golden State is still made of human beings, and human beings are fragile. Curry has had major work done to repair and strengthen his ankles, and the work he has put in has paid off. He hasn’t had issues in several seasons, and you can’t say anything but that he’s had the best luck maybe of any player in the league, both health-wise and playing fortune-wise in that time. Everything goes the Warriors’ way, which is why we tend to think nothing can stop them.
But one wrong landing when guarding James Harden, and that was it for Curry. By Kerr saying after the game that he still wouldn’t have played Curry even if the game was close,we have to at least acknowledge the injury. No one is safe from landing wrong, not 100 percent, no matter how fortunate they are, or how their game avoids contact, or how much work they put into staying healthy.
Now, this doesn’t matter vs. the Rockets. The Warriors treated Houston like a JV team in Game 1 Saturday, and in the six quarters where Curry has been unavailable vs. the Rockets (including a Dec. 31 game), the Rockets have been outscored 158-144. They can’t beat the Warriors even if Stephen Curry is tied to a chair with duct tape.
However, down the line, this could obviously become a major issue. Remember, Curry had his ankle roughed up by the Nuggets in their first-round win in 2013, and Curry wasn’t the same vs. the Spurs after a dominant Game 1. The Warriors are dominant always, miles better than everyone, but that’s with Curry. Without Curry vs. teams that actually have their own self-respect, the Warriors would likely struggle. The playoffs aren’t one series, these series aren’t self-contained. They spill over and affect each other like dominoes. Even if Curry were to suffer and injury he could play through, being less than 100 percent does take its toll.
The most likely scenario is that Stephen Curry will be fine in Game 2, that he’ll dominate in Game 2, that this was a blip that will be totally lost in the Warriors’ championship confetti in in the playoffs. It appears the Warriors dodged a bullet with the injury not being more severe, but the future remains something that no matter how great they are, the Warriors can’t fully control.