Golden State Warriors

Curry leaves with sprained knee, Warriors respond by tearing out Rockets’ hearts

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Steph Curry slipped on a wet spot at the end of the first half, sending his left leg skidding hard left and forcing his right knee to twist at an angle no one wants to see.

The Warriors’ preliminary (announced) diagnosis: sprained right knee. Suddenly the worries about his ankle/foot on the same leg paled in comparison.

Curry jumped up, jogged a little, and put on a brace and warmed up during halftime before attempting to come back into the game. According to Draymond Green, Curry cried in the team huddle when he was told he would not be allowed to return, shortly before the third quarter began.

We don’t know what this means until the results of tomorrow’s MRI are released. So, for now, all we can do is marvel at how well his teammates responded to another set of less-than-optimal circumstances. After mucking through a fairly easy home win without Curry in Game 2, and losing by just one point on the road in Game 3 — despite the worst game of Draymond Green’s career and not much help from the other starters — the Warriors started today’s game looking like a team without a purpose.

It wasn’t Curry’s fault, but indirectly it kind of was. Whenever Curry is on the floor, he dictates what the other nine players do and think. The Warriors were unstoppable before he tweaked his ankle in Game 1, when Curry scored 24 points in less than 20 minutes. With Curry looking not quite like himself in the first two quarters of Game 4, the Warriors looked a little too Rocket-like for comfort. James Harden and Dwight Howard dominated, while the Warriors lost a sizable first quarter lead (thanks in part to a strange lineup that included Ian Clark and James Michael McAdoo) and played the same kind of porous defense we saw from them in the first half of Game 3.

When Curry departed for the locker room, Rockets fans — buoyed by a tie score and knowing full well that their sorry basketball outfit needs all the help it can get — cheered. And something clicked for the visitors. Green and Klay Thompson, whose struggles were the key to Houston’s victory on Thursday, played all 12 minutes in the third quarter. They combined to score 25 points, with Green making 3-of-5 from behind the arc and Thompson going 4-for-5. Golden State outscored Houston 41-20 in the third quarter, and cruised to a 121-94 victory against a team that again showed its true colors.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss posed an interesting question before the game’s conclusion.

Collapses like today’s are expected from Houston. This kind of grand failure, after being presented the upset opportunity of all upset opportunitites, is nothing less than par for the 2015-16 Rockets’ course. It wouldn’t be surprising if half their roster (give or take) secretly wishes Harden would’ve clanked his game-winning shot over Andre Iguodala.

But this Warriors team has never shown anything resembling that kind of sustained brilliance for two quarters without Curry. Instead of feeling Curry’s pain as if it was their own, they embraced the situation and showed they can hold down the fort if Curry only misses another game or two. And they should clinch this first round series on Wednesday night, even though they’ll surely be without Curry.

So that settles it. Game 4 was an inspiring performance from the rest of the Warriors. But that will provide no solace if the news tomorrow is bad. And the tone coming from the visitors’ side in Houston is grim.

What is a Warriors fan to do? At this point, that answer is probably: brace for the worst, hope for the best, and take pride in what your team did today. Imagine the Rockets if they lost Harden to a knee injury. Sure, they might be happier, but they’d still lose by 30. The Warriors responded to a lackluster half and terrible injury news with one of the most complete halves of playoff basketball they’ve ever played. It won’t mean much if Curry is lost for the rest of the playoffs, but it should mean something tonight.

Dub Steps

— According to the broadcast, Curry complained about a wet spot on that exact area of the court several minutes before he injured his knee. I don’t know what could’ve been done, but Houston should probably look into getting more/better employees to keep the floor dry.

— Houston shot 34.1% in the second half. Whenever the Warriors blow a game open, it always seems like we see that kind of figure from the opposing side.

— Iguodala was tremendous — 9-for-11 from the field, and five of those makes were from at least 14 feet away. Whenever he knows the Warriors need him to be something greater than a steadying influence, he delivers.

— The Warriors had 21 of their 38 assists in the second half. The Rockets had 18 assists in the game.

— The Warriors made a postseason-record 21 threes on 40 attempts. The Rockets went 5-for-27 on 3-pointers.

— Draymond Green shrugged off Game 3 with one of his standard great games — he was a ridiculous +34 today.

— I wasn’t sure if Festus Ezeli was hurt, because Andrew Bogut wasn’t as lively today as he was in Games 1 and 2, and McAdoo isn’t playoff-caliber. Sure, Ezeli had played poorly in this series, but Howard was doing whatever he pleased in the first half. And when Ezeli finally entered the game, he wasn’t half bad — 3 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes, +13. Maybe Kerr will trust him more in Game 5.

— This was incredible, even for a guy who’s known for firing ridiculously accurate full-court passes.

— I’m not sure what’s a worse look, old rich guys sitting courtside wearing team-issued t-shirts over collared shirts, or Harden chilling like Larry Bird at the end of the fourth quarter. The only difference … Bird only spent time on his back when it was spasming.

My wife’s response to Harden relaxing: “Is he sleeping? What’s wrong with him?”

— I’m not going to count the Warriors out, as far as potentially repeating is concerned, until we find out if Curry’s season is done. However, independent of what his MRI says (even if he can return, he’s not going to be as fast as before with multiple right leg ailments), it’s sad that we’re missing out on what would’ve been one of the greatest individual playoff runs in NBA history. Curry was ready to explode. He actually did in the first half of Game 1, but it was like the best fireworks show one could imagine (picture: Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s) stopping abruptly after 30 seconds.

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