It’s been over two weeks since Steph Curry returned from his knee injury to make the Warriors fully operational for the latter stages of the playoffs, and his results have been mixed. He made the Warriors look invincible once again in his first game back against the Pelicans, but he’s been up and down in the five playoff games since then. In the first two games of this series against the Rockets, he’s been way, way down.
Curry got away with scoring 18 points and going 1-of-5 from three in Game 1 because Kevin Durant was up to the task of sweeping aside the Rockets all by himself. He attempted to do so again last night, scoring 38 points on 22 shots, but he couldn’t overcome a decidedly more spunky Rockets attack. Thus the attention turns to Curry’s Game 2 box score: 16 points on 19 shots, and 1-of-8 from three-point range.
As always seems to be the case whenever Curry has a run of poor play in the postseason, questions have been raised about whether he is completely healthy. This sometimes feels like reactive excuse-making for a guy people simply aren’t used to seeing miss many shots, but given what Curry’s various knee and ankle ligaments have already been through, it’s a question worth asking.
For their part, both Curry and Steve Kerr brushed off questions about Curry’s most recent knee injury hampering him in this series. “Feeling great,” Curry said in response to a postgame question about his health. Kerr was a little bit sassier:
You’re never going to get a straight answer about injuries from anyone during this time of year, and the actual action on the court hasn’t provided much clarity, either. Curry has looked a step slow here and there against Houston, but he’s also been getting around his defenders and putting up the sorts of shots around the rim that a guy with a real concern about lingering injuries wouldn’t be so inclined to take.
There was even a stretch, at the start of last night’s fourth quarter, when Curry seemed desperate to finally unleash himself on the Rockets and maybe get the Warriors back into the game. On his first shot of the quarter, he wriggled along the baseline and missed an awkward scoop layup with his left hand. On the very next possession, he came barreling down the right side of the floor and clanked an ugly runner off the glass. The next time down the court, after a missed Klay Thompson three and an offensive rebound, Curry finally hit his first three-point shot of the night. He followed that up immediately with a straight-line drive for another bucket, and then fed Shaun Livingston for an easy dunk. It was suddenly 98-86 with over 10 minutes to play, and the Warriors looked lively. The run ended almost as quickly as it started, though, and Curry went on to end his shooting night with a wild, doomed floater and a bricked pull-up jumper.
You could see Curry outlining a Takeover Game—one of those in which he singlehandedly erases what appeared to be an insurmountable lead through a barrage of threes and floaters that drop perfectly through the net—but he just wasn’t up to filling in the full picture. Your level of concern regarding the Warriors’ chances going forward in this series should directly correlate with how likely you think it is that Curry will continue to sputter in these moments. You have to assume he’s going to keep trying to grab hold of games like he did during that fourth-quarter stretch last night, and at some point the Warriors will need him to find his grip.