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Steph Curry’s minutes limit could be “elevated” at elevation

Steph Curry played about 22 minutes in the first two games against Denver. Steve Kerr is willing to ramp that up.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry waves his hand to encourage Steve Kerr to increase his minutes.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors will be playing the next two games at a mile above sea level in Denver, but that’s not the only elevation we’ll be seeing in Game Three of their series with the Denver Nuggets.

“He came through the first two games well,” said Coach Steve Kerr. “We’ve had the last couple days off in terms of no game action, so he’s had a chance to assess where he is. And he’s doing really well, so we’ll increase his minutes.”

Curry played 21:41 in Game One, and very slightly bumped that up to 22:57 in Game Two. He also greatly bumped up his scoring in Game Two, scoring 34 points, up from 16 in Game One. By our math, elevating Curry’s minutes limit to a full 30 minutes means we should expect him to score about 44 points tonight, with 6.54 three-pointers and a plus-minus of +42. It’s just math.

There’s still no immediate plans to move Curry back into the starting lineup, although Curry himself said, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about who’s in that closing lineup, but it’s also about being ready to go when your number’s called.” Interestingly, Andrew Wiggins has started each of his 607 career games, counting the playoffs (and the ephemeral, not-in-the-record-books play-in games). It’s hard to take anyone out of the starting lineup, but Curry is right that the “closing” lineup is what matters - that three-guard, Wiggins-Draymond lineup that’s crushing the Nuggets so hard that there hasn’t been any closing to be done. Right now we’ll call it the Batman Lineup, because it’s driving the Joker to madness.

So far in the series, Curry has been entering the game at the halfway point of each quarter and closing them all out. In Game Two, he came back in at the nine-minute mark of the 4th and may have played longer had he not buried the Nuggets with ten straight Warriors points in just over two minutes, putting them up by 23 points. The guess here is that they keep the same substitution pattern for the first and third quarters, but bring in Curry a few minutes earlier in the second. Obviously the fourth quarter minutes are highly dependent on the closeness of the game, but if necessary, Kerr should feel comfortable playing Curry the last 8-9 minutes of the 4th, which seems consistent with his recovery and in line with Curry’s preference of playing for longer stretches at once.

It probably means slightly fewer minutes for Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica, unless Poole & the Gang dominate even more than usual. You’d think this killer lineup - “Andrew Wiggins and the Water Dudes” - will get even more time together with Curry’s extended leash, but it’s also possible that Kerr doesn’t want to see Aaron Gordon cry, especially with those braids in his hair.

The minutes limit for Chris Chiozza remains zero, because he is not eligible for the playoffs.