Steph Curry played 34.2 minutes per game this season. With a tweak and a slip, two separate injuries have limited Steph to 38 minutes so far in these Playoffs. After missing 56 games in 2011-12 due to ankle injuries, Curry missed only 13 games over the next four seasons combined. So far this series a healthy Curry has yet to play in a full game. Officially, Curry’s slip resulted in a Grade 1 Sprain of the MCL in his right knee and will be re-evaluated in 2 weeks. In a best case scenario, Curry’s replacement Shaun Livingston and the rest of the Warriors step up to force long series with the Rockets and the Clippers and Curry could be back in time for the heavy-weight match-up with the Spurs. Curry would hopefully step back in and be effective. In a worst case scenario, the Warriors get upset by an opportunistic and desperate Clippers team before reaching the Spurs and before Curry makes his return. If the Curry-less Warriors can get through the Rockets and Clippers, the question will be how effective Curry will be after missing essentially three weeks? It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but much of Curry’s game is his superb conditioning that most of his opponents cannot match. How will this down time and not being able to work those legs affect his shot? His range? His quick cuts? Steph Curry’s injury, while not considered overly serious (relatively speaking), could not have come at a worse time for the Warriors, and the injury completely changes the Playoff picture.
All of the sudden Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing their best basketball since Lebron’s return to Cleveland. Love and Kyrie look locked in and on the same page for the first time in a long time. Tristian Thompson just played one of the top Centers in the league, even. Lebron has gone from the impossible-to-please, malcontent, and distracted teammate during the regular season, to the supportive, excited-for-his-teammates-success leader we have seen in years past. Was Lebron intentionally stirring the pot during the regular season in an attempt to prepare his team for the Playoffs? The Cavs’ chances all of the sudden look much better. Could this be the year for Lebron to bring the title home to Cleveland?
The Spurs have to be considered the new favorite to win the title. With Curry less-than-100% if the Warriors can get past the Rockets and Clips, The Spurs will surely find ways to make Steph feel uncomfortable. Originally, I predicted the Warriors going 16-1 and winning the title. Instead, it looks like the Spurs are the team primed to go 16-1 on their way to the Spurs 6th title. In the 1st round sweep of the Grizzlies, Kawhi Leonard seemed to take another step in his development and looks better than ever. Could the Spurs, who flew under the radar and in the shadow of the record-breaking Warriors all season long, swoop in at the end and steal the title? With Curry on the shelf, what better way to fuel the Warriors fire this off-season to come back even better with a determination to finish the job they started this year? I cannot remember a more important playoff injury in my lifetime than this one.
One Curry slip and the repeat title may have slipped through the Warriors’ fingers.