Heading into game 2 of the first round series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, the NBA champions have a decision to make: Trust the taping on Stephen Curry to keep his ankles from once again causing him problems, or giving the rest of the team a vote of confidence in their ability to handle the Houston Rockets in Curry’s absence.
There’s not a whole lot of data on the Warriors this season without Curry. They went 2-1 in his absence, although clearly, they’re a very different team with him. He finished the season with a net rating of +17.9 and the Warriors were better off by an incredible 22.2 points per 100 possessions when he wasn’t playing. In their three games without him, playing Dallas (lost by 23), at Houston (lost by 4) and Atlanta (lost by 4), they had a 107.6 offensive rating along with a 113.1 defensive rating, with that Dallas game skewing everything. When Curry is playing, the Warriors score 116.7 points per 100 possessions per NBA.com while giving up 98.3. That’s quite a difference.
But if giving him some rest makes sure the ankle is 100% when he plays next, isn’t it worth keeping him out of play for one game? Yes, the nine-loss Warriors might get mixed up in a more difficult game than the first one against the Rockets. Playing against a team that doesn’t have Curry frees up players for all kinds of defensive duties. Defensively it might mean more of Shaun Livingston, which isn’t that great of an idea if you’re Houston, but what choice do they have?
Either way, the Rockets, with or without Curry, have plenty of problems. A team that has pretty much one thing going for them on offense, and the moment James Harden is neutralized as a passer, things become terrible very quickly. Add that to zero playmaking skills with other players, Dwight Howard looking like someone who can’t wait to put some ice on his knees half the time and overall a lethargic, ready-to-lose approach might mean the Warriors have nothing to worry about, with or without Curry.
Curry does a very good defensive job within the system the Warriors have although like others on the team, is allowed by referees to get away with too much on his way to finishing as the NBA leader in steals. Stan Van Gundy complained earlier in yesterday’s Pistons-Cavaliers game about James getting calls but later apologized. His team got the benefit of the doubt later on, which didn’t stop Reggie Jackson from imploding and helping his team lose the game. No one in the NBA gets the kind of assistance the Warriors do, even if they still haven’t crossed that line between likeable and easy to hate which is so thin it’s almost invisible.
Back on track: Curry is still questionable, as Kerr is keeping this as mysterious as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Curry is pressing him to play, while Kerr has his doubts, and rightfully so. With so much more than just one game to play for and to lose if Curry goes down with an injury, resting him just a little bit longer is the smart move to make. Even without him, they’re huge favorites to go 2-0 up.