The NBA’s back-to-back MVP scored 28 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point line. But he played just 30 minutes as Steve Kerr decided not to lay down his ace in the fourth quarter.
“I knew coach was going to regulate minutes. When you get in the heat of battle and he comes over and tells you that you’re done, it kind of catches you off guard,” Curry said, about Kerr’s late-season philosophy. “But then you realize the big picture.”
Win a championship.
The Warriors’ lofty title aspirations are now the only thing that matter. Golden State has had a playoff birth locked up since mid-Feburary and has played with razor-sharp focus since losing three consecutive games in early March.
The team is no longer playing with the massive pressure associated with chasing one of the greatest team achievements in the game of basketball: the illustrious 73rd regular season win.
“This year is different and the situation is what it is,” Curry said in his postgame press conference after Monday night’s game. “There’s a little less hoopla going into the final stretch of the season, which I think could be a good thing.”
While the spotlight is as bright as it has ever been on the Warriors in 2017, given the acquisition of Kevin Durant, the pressure felt by the team as a whole to win every game and perform at a super-human level on a nightly basis has dissipated.
Golden State’s dominance over the league last season commanded every headline, win or lose. However, Herculean efforts this season by Russell Westbrook and James Harden have elevated the day-to-day pressure off of the Warriors’ backs.
A loss at home at this point of the season last year was cataclysmic, whereas Monday’s loss was simply a by-product of strategic rest. Durant made it known to the media that the Warriors enter every game with a mindset of winning. But with a more monumental goal in mind, even Steve Kerr can’t have a little fun with the rarity of a Golden State Warriors’ loss.
“It’s going take some time [to get over the loss]. Maybe a summer,” Kerr said, sarcastically. “Just try and get away for a little bit. Somehow, someway, try and regroup.”
The Warriors’ main goal is to enter the playoffs healthy and well-rested, both physically and psychologically. It looks like Kerr’s decision to limit minutes was a smart one.