Warriors vs. Rockets: Stephen Curry insists he's past knee injury; Steve Kerr defensive about star's slow start
Curry hasn't been himself this series, but he insists that it isn't because of his knee
The Warriors were without superstar Stephen Curry for 16 of the last 17 games of the regular season and the first six games of the postseason with an MCL sprain. His return signified a huge moment for the second-seeded Warriors, as he clearly remains one of the key components to the Warriors' success. However, Curry doesn't quite seem like himself thus far in the Western Conference finals.
After the Rockets' Game 2 rout of the Warriors to even up the series, questions about Curry's knee have begun to come to a head, despite the Warriors' insistence that it isn't his knee that's hindering him.
"I feel good. I feel good," Curry told "The Undefeated." "It's something that you can't shake off because of how recent the injury was. But I'm out there. I feel great, and I'm not worried about anything with my knee. I keep saying the same thing. I feel good."
Curry has been adamant that he's fully recovered from his injury, and there's a good chance he's being truthful. Curry's average speed on Wednesday, for example, was 4.41 miles per hour, third on the team, per the NBA Stats page. He also covered 2.5 miles, only trailing Klay Thompson. He's moving off of the ball well, and he's not really looking hindered, despite taking a physical beating. Where the injury may be biting him is in terms of rust, or it's altering his shooting motion in some way, but after six games back that seems odd, too. In those six games, Curry is shooting just 36.2 percent from beyond the arc.
There have only been two games where he's looked like the Steph Curry of old: In his first game back (Game 2 against the Pelicans) where he put up 28 points and had a +26 on the floor and in a closeout Game 5 against New Orleans.
Steve Kerr is just as dismissive as Curry of the idea that his slow start to the series is due to injury. Against the Rockets, Curry is shooting 15.4 percent from deep -- including a 1-for-8 night in Game 2 -- while averaging just 17 points per game. When Kerr was asked how much of that is because of Curry's knee, the Warriors coach was very on brand.
Kerr: "His [Curry's] lingering injury -- how much is it responsible for ...?"
Reporter: "Some of his play tonight."
Kerr: "Uhh ... 13.7 percent. Sorry."
For the record, Kerr is not saying that 13.7 percent of Curry's missed shots are due to his knee. This is his way of answering questions he doesn't deem worth answering.
Curry's defensive deficiencies already made him a prime player to target on that end of the floor -- especially since he's often sharing it with the tenacious defense of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala -- not to mention the length of Kevin Durant. Curry knew he would get attacked this series, responding "surprise, surprise" when he was questioned about being on the ball so frequently, per "The Undefeated." However, evaluating Curry's defense is tricky when he's going up against a team like the Rockets that is so stacked with shooters.
Some of the questions about Curry may be due to the extreme expectations he's set for fans with his incredible play in the Warriors' last few Finals runs. Others may be due to the fact that he's currently in a system that's significantly less exciting, so we don't notice what he does well as much.
Curry doesn't take the insane shots he used to running down the floor, where every game and shot feels like a heat check for him. He's being face-guarded constantly, and Durant has shouldered a lot of the offensive load. Curry can be seen weaving through off-ball screens and picking spots in the defense. He's not the ball-dominant streak-shooter he once was.
Whether it's his knee, rust or just a cold spell, Curry is liable to break out at any time. However, as we saw in Game 2, it would be better for the Warriors that it's sooner than later, because the Rockets came to play.
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