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The Golden State Warriors are dangerously close to falling out of the Play-In tournament and Steve Kerr is keeping Stephen Curry glued to the bench for more than nine straight minutes down the stretch of a tight game against the league's best defense? 

Make it make sense. 

"We're trying to get him as much rest as we can," Kerr said of Curry following the Warriors' 114-110 loss at Minnesota on Sunday. "We've played him a lot of minutes. We played him 35 [minutes] two days ago. So as long as we were hanging in there, we wanted to limit the minutes a little bit. Not limit them, but not overplay him."

There's a big difference between playing Curry 30 total minutes and overplaying him. It's true, Curry played 35 minutes on Friday in a loss to the Pacers, including the entire fourth quarter, which the Warriors entered with a 14-point deficit. Curry didn't change much. They lost by 12. 

Still, Kerr had to try. With 12 games to play, the Warriors are clinging to a one-game lead in the loss column over the Rockets for the final Play-in spot. Every game is massive. When Curry sat down at the 4:07 mark of the third quarter on Sunday, the Warriors held a four-point lead. When he came back in at the 6:54 mark of the fourth quarter, they were down eight. That's too big a swing for a team already operating on a razor-thin margin. 

"I want to play as many minutes as I'm fresh and able to, so I'm a little bit [surprised] knowing that [the Timberwolves] were going on a run," Curry said after Sunday's loss. "Our lead was withering away. ... I played the whole fourth quarter against Indiana and it didn't work out, this didn't work out [against Minnesota]. We've got to find somewhere in the middle."

Curry obviously wants to play more, but Kerr has made his position clear. In 14 games since the All-Star break, Curry has only played more than 32 minutes twice. He is averaging fewer than 30 minutes a night over nine games in March. He played 17 in a blowout loss to Boston, 24 in a blowout win over Memphis, and just 29 minutes in a brutal loss to the Bulls

Yes, Curry got injured in that Chicago game, but the ankle roll came with under four minutes to play. Even had he finished the game, he would've been under 33 total minutes. 

You could argue that Curry needs the rest, whether he likes it or not. His production has plummeted pretty considerably -- perhaps, at least part, because of the heavy scoring and creation burden he's had to take take on this season for an aging team that is fighting uphill every night. He entered Sunday averaging 21.3 points on barely 40% shooting, including 35% from 3, over nine games in March. 

"We can't expect to just ride Steph game after game after game," Kerr said. "We've put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years. We can't expect him to play 35 minutes ... If you want to say that him playing 30 minutes instead of 32 is a difference between a win and a loss, I totally disagree with that. We're trying to win the game. And we're trying to keep him fresh, too."

To me, there's another theory in play here: Deep down, Kerr knows this Warriors team is done. All season he has played the "I believe this team can compete" card, but let's face the hard facts. It's over. They're playing out the string. Whether the season ends in mid-April or late April is semantics. 

It's either that, or Kerr still believes this Warriors team can compete for a title, in which case his sitting Curry for nine straight minutes down the stretch of a damn-near must-win game would qualify as malpractice. I'm not buying that. 

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After Kansas' loss in the NCAA Tourney on Saturday, Bill Self said: "For the last month, I've been thinking about next season to be honest." It was a blunt assessment about a team that Self knew didn't have it. If Kerr harbors a similar sentiment about this year's Warriors, could you blame him? The guy knows what a contending team looks like, and this ain't it. 

So why tap Curry's tank just to lose in the Play-in or the first round? Look at the timeline here. Curry turned 36 this month. He's going to play in the Olympics this summer. He has two years remaining on his current contract, and Kerr just signed his own extension that lines up directly with the 2026 close of Curry's deal. 

He's not just looking to keep Curry as fresh as possible for the weeks ahead. He's looking to do so for the years ahead. This summer, Chris Paul and Klay Thompson could be gone. Jonathan Kuminga has made a leap. The Warriors have some future draft picks they can trade. If there is one more chance to pull a roster rabbit out of the hat and put a contending team on the floor in the Bay, it can only happen if Curry is up for the task of carrying a massive load into his late thirties. Preparation for that might already be starting.