Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are in the NBA playoffs after a two-year hiatus as they host the Denver Nuggets for the 3-6 first-round series. However, Curry's status is still uncertain and the team isn't sure if the superstar point guard will lace up for Game 1 on Saturday.
He is the focal point of the entire Warriors system and his presence on the floor will be a pivotal factor in this series. We know the Dubs preach "Strength in Numbers" and they have a very deep bench. But regardless of how they have looked without him, if Curry misses this series or even a few games, the Golden State Warriors might go home in the first round.
So let's take a look at this potential first round matchup and evaluate what Steph Curry's injury means for the Golden State Warriors.
How did Steph Curry get hurt and what is his latest injury update?
Steph Curry hurt his ankle in the game against the Boston Celtics on March 16th and instantly crushed the hearts of Dub Nation all around the world. Fans at Chase Center gasped and held their breaths as their MVP was escorted to the locker room after Marcus Smart dived on his legs. While many fans have called it a dirty play, certain analysts disagree that Smart's actions were intentional.
Moreover, Steph Curry himself acknowledged that the play wasn't dirty. He addressed the media regarding his rehab status and gave everyone an injury update while commenting on the play that got him injured.
"He didn't try to hurt me. There is a certain way that he plays. I'm don't think many other people would have made the play that he did but I don’t think it was malicious or dirty or that he was trying to hurt me."
Regardless of whether the play was dirty or intentional, it has resulted in the two-time MVP missing the remainder of the regular season. He has been rehabbing and steadily getting back in shape ever since. The team announced that his re-evaluation went well last week and they will evaluate him every day for the final four days to see how he progresses moving forward.
Three days ago, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media and gave an update on Steph Curry's recovery. He mentioned that he expects the decision will "go right down to the wire."
"There's a chance he could be ready for Game 1, there's a chance he could not...So it's really up in the air as far as Steph's participation the rest of the week. We'll see how it goes the next couple of days...As the week goes on, we'll see where Steph is. I imagine this will go right down to the wire as far as Game 1 is concerned whether we know his availability or not."
So the franchise is expecting a last minute decision for Steph Curry's availability in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets at home. They face off on Saturday before hosting them for Game 2 on Monday. They then travel to Colorado and deal with Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.
The Golden State Warriors practiced yesterday and Curry was a part of most of the drills. He fully participated in practice, including shooting, skill work and other fitness drills. Kerr latest update on his talisman was:
"We're not going to play him without getting a scrimmage. It would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without some scrimmage time....I would say right now that it’s looking good he’ll scrimmage tomorrow."
Steph Curry is optimistic that he will return in time for the playoffs but the Golden State Warriors need to be prepared to play at least one game without him.
How have the Golden State Warriors looked without Steph Curry this season?
The Golden State Warriors have given their fans a rollercoaster ride of emotions ever since Steph Curry got injured. They often show signs of a lottery team without him on the floor, but then every once in a while they display their championship pedigree as well.
The Warriors went 2-7 without him last season but have shown signs of a strong playoff team this year. They have a record of 8-10 without Curry this season and although that is a losing record, they won their last five games in a row.
The Golden State Warriors wrapped up their regular-season with a five-game win streak, including a massive fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Utah Jazz. Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson have been phenomenal while Andrew Wiggins is finally looking like himself again.
But nothing compares to the gravity that Steph Curry brings. Even during his mid-season shooting slump, his plus/minus numbers went through the roof as he constantly drew defenders away from the basket like a magnet. Despite missing 18 games, he finished the season third in plus/minus with +509. He has missed more games than anyone else in the top 10 of this category.
It is one thing to win a few regular-season games, but when we talk about an entire playoff series against the reigning MVP, it is an entirely different animal. The Golden State Warriors don't just need Steph Curry on the floor but need to him to the baby-faced assassin.
They expect him to look like the version of himself during the first 20 games of this season when he was the runaway MVP favorite. As reported by NBA.com's Mark Medina, Coach Kerr recently said:
"I have no concerns about what's looking like this week. All it takes is one game from Steph to go from the injured list to first-team All-NBA."
Steph Curry usually plays better after rehab or a long period of rest, and coach Kerr believes Curry will come back with guns blazing and without any rust.
However, if he does show up but isn't shooting like himself, the situation isn't ideal. He entered a poor shooting slump when Draymond Green was unavailable. Green, on the other hand, wasn't too productive without Curry either. The team certainly needs both of them to play as they complement each other perfectly and have an unspoken connection on the court.
The Curry-Green duo is the best two-man combination the Golden State Warriors can deploy with a +13.4 net points rating, amongst duos who have played at least 700 minutes together. That means they outscore the opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions. The Steph Curry-Jordan Poole duo comes close with +13.2 net points rating.
Nevertheless, when Steph Curry isn't on the court, the Warriors' offensive rating drops by a whopping 10.0. They shoot 5.8% worse from the field while the opponent shoots 2% better. Their Steal% goes down by +1.3 and their Assist% gets affected by +4.8.
The franchise's leading scorer affected the game in several ways by constantly creating 4-on-3 opportunities for his team. He raises the floor to a level that could be the difference between a G-League and an NBA playoff team.
An online Twitter poll run by NBC Sports' Bonta Hill asked fans if the Golden State Warriors can win a first-round series against either Denver, Dallas or Utah. The majority (69.2%) of the voters picked that they could defeat no one.
What are the lineups that work without Steph Curry?
The Golden State Warriors' starting lineup without Steph Curry shifts Jordan Poole to the point guard role, while the rest of the starters remain the same. Klay Thompson joins the backcourt as the two-guard while Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green continue to be the forward pair. Kevon Looney would retain his center position.
However, in terms of offensive efficiency, the best five-man combination without Curry is Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II as the guards with Otto Porter Jr. as the power forward. Draymond Green would shift to the center and Andrew Wiggins would play his usual position. This lineup is +36.9 in net points rating per 100 possessions.
The best defensive lineup doesn't include Steph Curry at all anyway. Draymond Green anchored the defense with Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Andrew Wiggins and Andre Iguodala. One can switch Porter Jr. with Kevon Looney for some size in the low block.
Klay Thompson has looked incredible the last couple of games and he is finally looking like himself again. Jordan Poole led the NBA in three-pointers made in March and is the league-leader in free-throw percentage. He also dropped 20+ points for 18 straight games and is arguably the Most Improved Player this season. In addition, Jonathan Kuminga has earned himself some serious minutes in the rotation as well.
As mentioned, the Golden State Warriors are capable of winning a game or two in the absence of the baby-faced assassin but expecting a playoff series victory is far-fetched.
The Bay Area fans are hoping to see Steph Curry lace up for the first-ever playoff game in Chase Center on Saturday.
Q. Will the Golden State Warriors defeat the Denver Nuggets in the first round?
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