OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry has spent most of this postseason walking a fine line between being available and effective, or fouling out of a game.
Which means the Warriors have had more nervous moments than they want.
Seven games into the second season, Curry has yet to foul out. Whistled for four fouls three times and five fouls once in the six-game first-round series against the Clippers, he got into trouble again Sunday in Game 1 of the second-round series against the Rockets.
Curry picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter and was benched until the start of the fourth. Less than four minutes into the final quarter, he picked up his fifth. He sat for 87 seconds before returning and remaining in the game.
He was there when he had to be, splashing a 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds remaining, giving the Warriors a five-point lead that was crucial to their 104-100 win at Oracle Arena.
This is a dangerous game, though, and it’s one Warriors coach Steve Kerr hoped he remedied in Game 4 against the Clippers. Curry, after all, committed only two fouls in Game 5 and the same in Game 6.
“When we were in LA and he picked up his fourth foul,” Kerr said, “I asked him, I said, ‘Steph, where is your mom?’ He pointed up 10 rows behind the bench. I looked up and made contact and looked at Sonya and I said, ‘Tell him not to foul anymore.’
“If his mom can't get through to him, I'm definitely not going to get through to him. Maybe I'll try (Curry’s father) Dell this time.”
Though Kerr made light of it, there is legitimate reason for concern. Curry spent the last 6:34 on Sunday playing with five fouls. Being one foul away from disqualification is risky, particularly in a close game that could even stretch into overtime.
Moreover, foul trouble for a starter disrupts Kerr’s playing rotation. It generally compromises team and individual defense. And Curry foul trouble always compromises the Warriors' offense.
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“I was mindful of it,” Curry said of his fourth-quarter approach. “I think I got in one situation where the ball was right in front of me and impulse takes over.
“For the most part, I can’t be passive. But I can be smart. And I’ve talked about it a lot since, what, Game 2 of the Clippers series. I’m going to figure it out eventually.”
Insofar as the Rockets are superior to the Clippers, the Warriors would prefer “eventually” to become “soon,” as in before Game 2 on Tuesday at Oracle -- and certainly before the series shifts to Houston next weekend.
Other than committing a team-high 26 fouls this postseason, Curry is playing satisfactorily on offense, averaging 23.7 points per game on 49-percent shooting, including 46.6 percent from deep.
Most of his foul problems have been on defense. He even wrote “No” on one shoe and “Reach” on the other before Game 4 against the Clippers to remind himself not to commit touch fouls.
“Honestly, there's no reason I should be in that position after how many questions I've been asked about it and how disappointing it is when I mess up the rotation with fouls,” Curry said. “So, we won the game tonight. I got away with it. I’ve got to be better.”
This is the kind of luck Curry need not press and the Warriors don’t care to push.
The kind of luck that, at this pace, is bound to run out, tilting the court toward the Rockets.