Bears Insider

How Steph's injury impacts Warriors' title dreams, playoff picture

Bears Insider

Just two days after getting their dynastic core back together for the first time in over 1,000 days and re-establishing themselves as one of the title favorites, the Warriors' championship dreams might have walked off the court for good Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics.

Midway through the second quarter at Chase Center, Celtics guard Marcus Smart dove for a loose ball and rolled into Steph Curry's foot and leg. The Warriors star guard left the game and did not return. Curry underwent an MRI and reportedly will be out indefinitely with a sprained ligament in his left foot.

There reportedly is "optimism" that Curry will return for the playoffs, but for now, the Warriors' championship dreams are in grave peril.

If Curry can't return or does at less than 100 percent, the Warriors will face an uphill climb to get out of a Western Conference filled with roadblocks.

Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are battle-tested, but the trio has played just 11 minutes together in the last three seasons. The rest of the Warriors' roster, save Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala, are young and inexperienced in the playoff grind.

It's unrealistic to expect a Steph-less Warriors team to be able to navigate a postseason series or more without the two-time MVP whose gravitational pull makes life easier for everyone else.

 

These Warriors are far different than the 2017-18 iteration that was able to withstand Curry missing the first five playoff games against inferior opponents. Golden State had Kevin Durant, Thompson was at his peak, and the Warriors were a behemoth that often defeated teams before the ball was even tipped.

Durant is gone, Thompson still is trying to find consistency after spending 941 days off the court, Green is 32, and Iguodala has been unable to stay healthy at age 38.

After his return Monday, Green proclaimed the Warriors would win a title. It was a prediction Thompson seconded without missing a beat.

Their championship swagger had returned, almost like the past three seasons hadn't happened.

Now, everything is ... indefinite.

"It sucks," Green said Wednesday about losing Curry right after he returned. "But that's just how the cookie crumbles, and you got to figure it out and deal with it. But boy, it's rough. It sucks for sure."

The Warriors haven't given a timetable for when Curry will be re-evaluated. It's fair to assume it will be at least a few weeks. Golden State has 12 regular-season games remaining and faces a tough schedule to close the season.

With Curry almost certainly missing the next 12 games, it feels like a forgone conclusion that the Memphis Grizzlies will capture the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. That would leave the No.3-seeded Warriors to face either Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, or the Utah Jazz.

Doncic torched the Warriors in Dallas on March 3, and Jokic is a clear matchup nightmare for a team that will ask Green and Looney to bang with the reigning MVP for seven games. Having to do that without the great equalizer in Curry, who can flip a game with a few flicks of his wrist, turns a rugged road into a monumental hill to climb.

RELATED: What Kerr said to Smart after 'dangerous play' with Steph

The Warriors have always maintained they don't care what seed they get as long as they reach the postseason healthy. They were right to feel that way. At full strength, they were among the title favorites and the mere presence of Curry, Thompson and Green together made much of other contenders shudder.

When Curry exited Wednesday's game, everything changed.

The Warriors' title path that once was crystal clear now is opaque. Once translucent dreams of completing a dynastic rebirth have been obscured by the cruel reality that things might never be how they once were.

Forty-eight hours after puffing out their chests and putting the NBA on notice, the Warriors, the NBA's once-great superpower that was on the doorstep of returning, got delivered a hard truth: 11 minutes might be all we get this season.

As Curry goes, so go the Warriors. And for now, the fate of both is unclear. Indefinite.

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