The Golden State Warriors are now shifting their focus towards health as they head into the post-season and finish the year out with 17 games left. After making it clear that the team would like to play as well as possible and maybe run the table heading into the playoffs, a string of injuries has caused a change in mentality for this veteran club. Just two minutes into last night’s action against the San Antonio Spurs, All-Star captain Stephen Curry re-injured his troublesome right ankle after going up for a lay-up on a routine fast break. It initially was ruled as a tweak and he was given the option to return to the game in the event he passed the functionality tests conducted by the Warriors’ training staff. The staff then decided to not only shut him down for that game, but also rule him out for the next two games; the second half of a back-to-back against the Portland Trailblazers tonight, and a match-up with Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Both games will be on the road.
The Warriors were already under-manned as Andre Iguodala, David West, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell were all watching from the sidelines and at least for tonight as well, that will continue. Iguodala is battling a left-wrist sprain. West is managing a cyst in his right arm. McCaw is still nursing a broken left wrist, but should be healed and ready to play in the coming two weeks, and Bell, who injured his right ankle shortly after returning from a left ankle injury, will be out for at least these next two games.
This puts the Warriors in a tough spot, considering that they usually rely on their depth when Stephen Curry is out. The next two games are against teams that are fighting for playoff positioning, playing desperate and have a history of giving the Warriors problems. The Trailblazers are currently riding an eight game winning streak behind the excellent play of Damian Lillard. They beat the Warriors in their last matchup and will be playing at home where they have been posting a +14.6 net rating since the All-Star break. The Warriors in that same span have a +14.2 net rating on the road, but have accomplished this with most of their rotational players in the mix. The Timberwolves recently signed Derrick Rose and after the loss of Jimmy Butler have been struggling to find a rhythm. However, in recent years the Timberwolves have played well against the Warriors, mostly due to the matchup problems caused by Karl-Anthony Towns. It will be an interesting two game road trip, before they head home and face the Los Angeles Lakers next Wednesday.
The Warriors fear that the lingering injuries with Stephen Curry will become troublesome in the playoffs and are reminiscent of the 2016 playoffs. Unlike last year, where Kevin Durant went down and the Warriors picked up the slack with him out, there is a fear that in the playoffs the same thing will be much harder to duplicate with a tougher field of competition and the engine that drives the Warriors offense being hobbled. It is no secret that the Warriors offense is drastically different in not only style of play, but production and efficiency when Stephen Curry is out or unhealthy.
A fear of re-occurring injuries may also cause Golden State’s front office to permanently call up two-way player Quinn Cook to possibly step in, as he had to do last night, to fill the back up point guard role for Shaun Livingston. This likely won’t happen considering Patrick McCaw and Andre Iguodala also share ball-handling responsibility as well as Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Also, Stephen Curry’s injury doesn’t seem serious enough to force a move of that magnitude from the front office/ coaching staff. However, in this event, the Warriors would be forced to release someone to make room for Cook. Casspi immediately comes to mind as a possible candidate, but as stated, there are serious doubts that it will come to that point.