NBA Sunday: Warriors Done Without Curry?
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Could the Golden State Warriors Survive Without Stephen Curry?
The biggest obstacle to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry’s NBA success has been the unpredictability of the health of his seemingly always ailing ankles. Over the course of his brief, four-year NBA career, Curry has consistently dealt with issues related to both of his ankles and his first postseason has been no different.
In the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ Game Three 102-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Curry came down awkwardly on his left ankle and limped back to the locker room. This is the same left ankle that Curry sprained in the Warriors’ first round series against the Denver Nuggets and the 25-year old point guard is listed as a game-time decision this afternoon.
“It wasn’t as bad as the one I did in Denver; it just happened to be the same foot,” Curry told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Compounding the fact that it wasn’t all the way healed from last time and just a repeat turn. I’m pretty optimistic I’ll be able to play in whatever the capacity; I’ll be on the floor.”
Curry’s optimism is a positive sign but how sore that left ankle feels after getting up this morning will be a key factor in how much he plays today – or if he even suits up at all. The final decision will be up to the Warriors training staff, and history on this subject has shown that Golden State isn’t going to push things to risk the future health of its budding star.
Already dealing with having a hobbled David Lee playing sparingly this postseason, losing the 2013 NBA postseason leader in assists per game (8.8) could doom Golden State.
“I have faith in Steph,” Curry’s backcourt mate Klay Thompson said. “I think he’ll bounce back. I don’t know how he’s feeling. Hopefully he’s with us, he’s our best player, he’s our leader. But if he’s not, we’ll have to do it collectively and not let it bother us. All‑Star caliber player, I really hope he’s with us. But I have faith in him.”
Curry started all but four games this season for Golden State – a career-high 78 starts – and the Warriors were a mediocre 2-2 without their breakout point guard. There’s little margin for error for Golden State, down 2-1 in the series heading into today’s game against the Spurs. Should Curry be unable to go, one of the league’s deepest teams is going to have to band together to shoulder the slack.
“I don’t have to stress for these guys to be unselfish,” Warriors’ head coach Mark Jackson said. “They are tied together, love each other and they care about each other. At the end of the day, I don’t have one guy that wants to be the hero all the time; I have a bunch of guys that want to make the right play. When you start that way from day one it makes it easier.”
Working in the Warriors’ favor if Curry’s indeed watching on from the sidelines in Game 4 is the aptitude of the player who would start in his place, Jarrett Jack. A starter for much of his eight-year NBA career, Jack averaged a hefty 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per contest off of the Warriors’ bench this season.
The Warriors ability to bring another starting-caliber player into the fold shouldn’t be overlooked and this team is betting that they have the depth to survive without their best player.
“Credit again to our ownership and our management group, Bob Myers, outstanding job of going to get Jarrett Jack,” Jackson said. “We will give him the basketball and trust that we’ll be just fine. Hopefully Steph is ready. If not, we got guys more than capable of going out and getting us a win.
“We are a team that pushes the basketball and we are an unselfish basketball team,” Jackson explained. “At the end of the day, no matter what team you look at, it’s going to boil down to an isolation play. Somebody will have the basketball and somebody will be asked to make a play. We try to do that at some point and the good thing about it is that it’s not always the same person. We take pride in making the right play down the stretch and living with the results.”
In four regular season starts, Jack averaged 18.8 points and 8.3 assists per contest and he believes he’ll be ready to shoulder the load should his name be called Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve done it many, many, many times,” Jack told ESPN’s J.A. Adande. “It won’t be anything [where] I’ve got to go in there and read a Phil Jackson Zen book or anything. I’ve just got to come out there and be ready to lead our team.”
What could make this entire scenario null and void is the toughness and grit Curry has shown both throughout the season and these playoffs. Curry has played through the pain following a more severe sprain in the first round against the Nuggets and sitting out the biggest game of his life won’t be easy.
The long-term health of a potential superstar is almost assuredly going to be a major factor, however, but much will depend on how Curry feels after stepping out of bed this morning.
“You never really know how it’s going to feel the next day,” Curry said. “You just keep with the treatment. It’s the same old story with the same answer. I hope that it feels good enough to go tomorrow, but until you wake up and see, you’re just hoping for the best.”
Even if Golden State is forced to play without Curry this afternoon, it’s difficult to count out a team that’s already persevered through injury this postseason. Losing your top two players is tough to overcome, especially against a team as potent as the Spurs, but these Warriors have accumulated enough depth to be confident despite the potential loss.
Are the Knicks Simply Overmatched Against Indiana?
The New York Knicks find themselves searching for answers after last night’s 82-71 Game Three beat down at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. New York struggled to a near franchise-low point total Saturday night as the Pacers pulled away in the second half to take a 2-1 series lead.
“Offensively we just didn’t have anything,” New York coach Mike Woodson told The Associated Press. “I thought defensively, we hung in there and did what we had had to do, but we just didn’t have any offensive pop and we have to figure that out.”
The Knicks shot just 35.2 percent from the field in Game Three, and the Pacers shot even worse at 35 percent, but Indiana made the plays they needed late to take home the W.
“They outrebounded us, they won the hustle today, the little things,” Anthony said. “It all came down to us not scoring the basketball. … We can’t beat anyone scoring 71 points.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Knicks’ loss was the way former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler was thoroughly outplayed once again by Roy Hibbert. While Chandler is clearly dealing with injury issues, Hibbert had his way with the Knicks’ starting center and put Indiana on his shoulders in the win.
“He kind of had his way tonight; that has to change,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson told USA Today Sports’ Mike Wells. “I thought he was the best player on the floor tonight.”
Hibbert scored a career playoff-high 24 points and snatched 12 rebounds in a dominating performance on the Pacers’ home floor. The 2012-13 season had been a disappointment for both Hibbert and the Pacers after the big man signed a huge, max-level deal this offseason but he led the charge Saturday night.
“I wanted to be around the rim, tipping balls in, creating extra possessions, try to be aggressive,” Hibbert said. “I work after practice every day on my hooks, left, right. Running with the left and the right. They were falling for me tonight. I was happy about that.”
Meanwhile, Chandler had just nine points and five rebounds on the night – accumulating a -14 plus/minus rating and finding himself on the bench in favor of reserve Kenyon Martin with the game on the line. If New York has any chance of regaining control of this series, the center battle must lean in the Knicks favor.
Chandler’s presence, when he’s on his game, frees up each of his teammates on both ends of the floor. Taking the pressure off of guys like Anthony on the defensive end, while making opponents pay with tough screens and picks offensively, is crucial to New York’s championship hopes.
If these Knicks can’t respond Tuesday night in Indiana, this could be a quick series and a massive disappointment for the clear-cut number two team in the Eastern Conference this season.