The Golden State Warriors are in a situation they have yet to experience under head coach Steve Kerr. Win or go home. Oklahoma City is making Golden State look like a mirage of the team who won an NBA record 73 regular season games.
Outside of the Warriors' game 2 victory, the NBA's first unanimous MVP has been anything but himself in the Western Conference Finals. His game 4 performance was one to forget as he recorded more turnovers (six) than he did assists (five). As Curry continues to struggle to create space and find his shot, basketball minds can't help to think that the league's most valuable player may still not be completely healthy from the sprained knee that kept him out of four playoff games already.
"He's not injured." Head coach Steve Kerr told CBS Sports' Ananth Pandian about Curry. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens to even the best players in the world. So, tough night for Steph, and he'll bounce back." Curry himself stated that he is "fine" and just has to "play better."
"Curry has been a shell of himself - missing shots, throwing away passes, losing his dribble and completely unable to prove that there's Curry-esque agility in that knee. "He's playing at 70 percent, at best," a source close to Curry told The Vertical. Curry refuses to make excuses, but privately the Thunder see something - no explosion, no ability to make the bigs switching onto him pay a price. Nineteen points on 20 shots Tuesday night bore no resemblance to the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player."
Steph Curry is not one to make excuses, but it is clear that he does not look like his normal self on the court. Curry at times looks like one of the Monstars from Space Jam stole his basketball powers. It is unclear how the unknown source close to Curry settled on a number so specific as 70%.
CSN Bay Area sideline reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude recently spoke with Curry in OKC:
Spoke w/ Steph Curry in OKC & he admitted he does feel some pain in knee & w constant play hard to progress in healing, but mind over matter— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) May 25, 2016
If anything, this only supports the report that Curry is not fully healthy. As GSoM's own Eric Apricot points out:
"It's easier in a lot of ways to take a butt-kicking than a close loss. Curry has been 70% by press reports and the rest of the team can't quite pick up with slack against a really strong Thunder team that actually made some nice adjustments vs the Good Guys.
Outside of 2-3 Curry flurries, he's been merely the best player on the W's, not the superhuman Curry we had this year. And now not the best (or even 2nd best) player in the series."
Apricot alluded to shooting stats compiled by ESPN's Ethan Strauss:
In a 97% cut of his minutes since Game 1 Houston, Curry's 50-for-125 for 140 points. 9-of-10 for 32 points in that other 3%— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 25, 2016
It seems as though Curry's spurts of greatness may of led us into thinking that he is 100% healthy. That and Curry himself telling the entire Portland crowd in game 4 of the Western Conference Semi's that he was indeed back.
But as Ananth Pandian of CBS Sports states best, "A 70-percent version of Curry is still better than no Steph at all for the Warriors and at this time in the playoffs, everyone is somewhat banged up."
We may not find out the real status of Curry's health until the summer as he is still a finalist for a roster spot on team USA's roster for the Olympic games in Brazil. Ethan Strauss offered this tid-bit when asked if Curry might skip out on USA basketball:
He wouldn't commit to going when I asked a couple weeks ago. So yes, I'd say he might https://t.co/1esEiXBNLE— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 25, 2016
Regardless of health, Curry doesn't want this season to come down to excuses.
If you're playing, we judge results, not circumstance. Curry knows it, which is why he stopped discussing knee pain after the series turned— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 25, 2016