The Warriors seemed snakebitten as of late with their recent flood of injuries. But it turns out that the snake is not just biting, it is unhinging its jaw and looking to swallow Golden State whole.
Even missing a trio of All-Stars heading into Friday’s game at Oracle Arena, the Warriors (54-18) still had enough to topple the Atlanta Hawks (21-52), 106-94. But they lost Stephen Curry, in his first game back from a two-week injury absence, just 25 minutes into his return to the court.
Curry scored 29 points in his short time on the court, and while his ankle was under the magnifying glass entering the game, it is his left knee that is the story afterward. He got rolled up on by JaVale McGee midway through the third quarter and didn’t return. The team reported that the injury is an MCL sprain. Curry will have an MRI Saturday.
That diagnosis, while not the end of the world, definitely brings back painful memories for Warriors fans, as it’s the same type of injury that Curry sustained in the 2016 playoffs that drastically limited him during that run.
Head coach Steve Kerr said it was a gloomy mood in the locker room after the game:
“It’s kind of a strange, cruel twist of fate. He rehabs his ankle for the last couple weeks and gets that strong and then the knee goes. … It’s a little somber in [the locker room], everybody feels for Steph.”
McGee said that there’s a weird energy around the team with all the injuries game after game:
“It’s like a juju or something on us. Like I’ve never been apart of a team where everyone just got injured, especially the starters. It’s kind of scary to tell you the truth.”
Curry had missed the last six games after spraining his ankle in the opening minutes March 8 against the Spurs. Not surprisingly it has been a struggle to score in his absence, especially with the injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
For the season, Golden State is averaging a league-leading 114.9 points per game, but over their last three games have averaged just 97.3 — fifth worst in the NBA over that time span.
Quinn Cook has done his best to step into the crater-sized hole Curry has left offensively. He added 13 points as he returned to the bench but continues to impress. Over his last three games entering Friday, Cook was averaging 24.3 points on 60.4 percent shooting, while raining in 54.5 percent from the 3-point arc.
The calls for Cook making the playoff roster have grown in volume during that span, but may become deafening now with Curry most likely out for an extended period of time.
Kerr acknowledged that they will definitely look at roster moves going forward:
“Nothing is for sure, we’ll see how the rest of the season goes, and hopefully we’ll have five guys who can suit up by the playoffs, so that’d be good. But we aren’t making any decisions now.”
Nick Young pulled the Warriors to the finish line with 24 points of his own, though he was momentarily hobbled himself, and while the Curry news put a damper on the night, Young getting in a rhythm is a big positive.
The Hawks also gave the Warriors a bunch of help, going just 9-of-20 from the free throw line, allowing the Warriors to climb back from an early deficit.
And while watching Curry limp off the court again is a depressing sight, the other positive is that it forces him to stay off his feet to let his ankle heal even further. He said before the game that it still isn’t 100 percent but he wanted to play on it anyway, so hopefully this added time off gives it a chance to get closer to full strength.
With Curry hurt again, Draymond Green sitting out joining Durant and Thompson, the Warriors have four All-Star on the injury list, something that will certainly lay a dark cloud over their championship aspirations.
Thompson was reevaluated Thursday but was not cleared for full-contact and remains out for a while, and Durant won’t even be reevaluated until the 30th.
But with just 10 games left in the regular season there isn’t much need to rush any of them back.
The real season starts after that.
The Warriors have a slew of upcoming home games in a short time frame — five of them in the next 10 days to be exact. The Utah Jazz (41-31) will be second up in this gauntlet challenge when they visit Oracle Sunday, in what could potentially be a first-round playoff matchup.
Patrick McCaw drew the start Friday and sustained a lower back injury, but was able to return. He even hit his first 3-pointer since February 12.