Stephen Curry returned to the court on May 1 and has averaged 32.3 minutes in six games. He has yet to regain his MVP form, but has found ways to be effective, scoring 22 ppg on 46 percent shooting. He has routinely looked shaky on defense, suggesting his left knee is still balky.
The Houston Rockets used this to their advantage in Game 2 Wednesday night, repeatedly attacking the Golden State Warriors guard. Curry was targeted on 23 possessions, including 13 isolations, his highest engagement in four years, save for the 15 in Game 1. James Harden and Chris Paul ran him through a gauntlet of screens to challenge him physically. Houston shot 7-for-15 on those possessions en route to a blowout win.
One of the prevailing Curry narratives is that, against all odds, he’s never had a bad game when completely healthy. And when do you know he’s ailing? When he has a bad game. Funny how that works.
To his credit, Curry isn’t making excuses and insists he’s fine physically. Steve Kerr laughed off a question about any lingering effects from the injury that would make the people at FiveThirtyEight proud.
Putting the words “Warriors” and “panic button” in the same sentence is journalistic malpractice. That button can always be reset by the next barrage of three-pointers and gorgeous basketball. But there should be some trepidation about how human Curry appears to be right now. Healthy or not, he killed his team last night.
The sharpshooter went 1-for-8 from beyond the arc and 7-for-19 overall. He posted a -20 plus-minus and got to the free throw line only once. Kevin Durant, now Golden State’s Batman, is spectacular, but he can’t overcome such pedestrian performance from his Robin.
Whether Curry’s struggles are injury-related or not are inconsequential to the bottom line. Either way, he hurt his team last night. There’s no need to freak out about it, but perhaps the topic deserves a little more consideration than what Kerr gave it postgame. When Curry is looking as bad as Harden defensively, that’s a major problem.
Houston is a team that can smell blood in the water when they have the basketball and aren’t afraid to play the same song over and over again. If Curry can’t find his footing while guarding his own basket, Harden & Co. aren’t going to call off the dogs.
So maybe Kerr’s 13.7 percent figure is instructive. Perhaps on the scale of 1-100, that’s how nervous Warriors fans should be that Curry, and the team’s title chances, are compromised.