By Chris Molicki
It seemed like the Warriors were finally getting some bad luck. A team that remained remarkably healthy over the course of two impressive years saw its top dog, Stephen Curry, go down with a knee injury. Golden State was faced with uncertainty surrounding when Curry would come back and how long it would take him return to his apex. This threw the fate of the NBA playoffs into chaos.
Curry was labeled out for “at least two weeks,” a timetable many thought was generous. The possibility of a setback or a slow recovery loomed large with this injury. And what about his bum ankle? What kind of shape was that in?
But what seemed like an even bigger concern was how Curry would play when he returned to the floor. Would he be hesitant, not wanting to hurt himself again? How long would it take him to get back into the flow of the game? Could he perform at the level he did all season, the one that allowed his team to win 73 games?
Even if Curry took just a little while to get back into his groove, it could make a huge difference. What if Curry returned for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, struggled to regain his form, and the Spurs or Thunder stole Game 1? Snagging that road game could be the difference in a seven-game series against an extremely tough opponent. Or what if Curry took even longer to return? Going down 2-0 or worse in a series against San Antonio or Oklahoma City might have deflated the Golden State locker room.
What if the Warriors couldn’t beat Portland? They had some difficulty in Game 4, and a Blazers win would’ve made it a best-of-three series with Curry’s ability still in question. All of the sudden, the road to back-to-back NBA titles for Golden State had encountered some massive potholes, ones they originally didn’t expect to deal with.
None of this matters anymore, however, because Steph is back. And it only took him one full game to get his stroke back. Thank god for overtime.
After spending the majority of the game shaking the rust off, Curry dropped 17 points in overtime, the most points scored by a player in overtime in NBA history (!) and declared, “I’m back.”
Curry being back spells doom for the rest of the league. I think the Spurs, Thunder, or Cavaliers can certainly give the Warriors a tough test. But Curry’s health, the one variable that could’ve changed everything, doesn’t seem to be in question anymore. Steph looks like he’s pretty close to 100%, and that makes Golden State massive favorites once again.
Who knows what will happen the rest of the way. Injuries can happen at any time. We’re just a slip away from having the complexion of the playoffs being turned upside once again. But right now, Curry is back. And so are the Warriors.
Just hours before Game 4, news broke that Curry would be announced the MVP for the second straight year. As if he needed to back up the selection, Steph grabbed control of the game, the series, and the entire playoffs. That’s pretty good timing.