OAKLAND -- The Warriors have seen this before. A star player, a former MVP, takes a knee to his thigh moments after tipoff but doesn’t prevent him from playing well while finishing the game.
This was Kevin Durant’s evening last Monday, and he was held out of the next game 48 hours later.
This was Stephen Curry’s evening Saturday night as the Warriors rolled to a 135-114 victory over the 76ers.
“KD passed off that contusion to me,” Curry joked afterward. “Same exact kind of situation, trying to come off a screen and got kneed in the thigh. I was obviously able to keep playing. I’m sure it’s going to hurt tomorrow but, hopefully, I’ll be alright.”
Curry then limped away from the postgame podium, much as Durant did earlier in the week.
It’s conceivable, if not likely, he will miss the game Monday night against Orlando. If there is any question, he absolutely can expect to sit. It’s game No. 14 of 82. Caution in this instance seems the prudent approach, and it’s the one coach Steve Kerr lives by whenever there is the slightest doubt.
If Curry is out, the Warriors are prepared. Veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have had recent rest nights and are capable of operating the offense in Curry’s absence.
Still, it’s the kind of predicament Kerr would rather avoid, even though he realizes it’s possible.
“It was a bruised quad, same thing that KD had two games ago, just a knee to the thigh that’s pretty painful,” Kerr said. “I’m sure he’ll feel it more tomorrow.”
It is situations such as this that compel Kerr to ensure that none of the team’s 14 available players goes too long without getting on the court. Any one of them might be pressed into action.
It’s also why the vets can expect to rest every four to six weeks. They need the maintenance in case they are required to temporarily handle a heavier load of minutes.
With Durant on the sideline in street clothes Wednesday, the Warriors ran away from the Timberwolves for a125-102 victory. Klay Thompson and Curry combined for 50 points and the bench outscored the Minnesota reserves 54-29.
The Warriors clearly know how to play in the absence of Durant, even though he was crucial upon his return Saturday, scoring a game-high 29 points against Philadelphia. They learned that much last season, when he missed 19 games in March and early April.
Curry is another matter. He is the catalyst for much of what the Warriors do, certainly on offense, and his absence would result a completely different team dynamic. The overall energy would be adversely affected.
By mere presence, Curry makes his teammates better. He is a magnet for opposing defenses, creating space for the likes of Klay Thompson and Durant and Iguodala. When Curry is on top of his game, the Warriors are practically unbeatable.
When he’s absent, winning comes considerably tougher.
So they hope. If he’s able to play, that means he’s at full strength and the Warriors will have all components of the machine they have become, poised to keep on rolling.