Clutching for his ankle on the right wing, Stephen Curry sent a shockwave of panic through the Golden State Warriors fan base with what looked to be a playoff-altering injury. After attempting to dribble between his legs behind the 3-point arc, the Warriors’ leading scorer rolled his right ankle, lost the ball, and had fallen to the floor.
After rolling his ankle midway through the first quarter of the Warriors 112-103 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the second-to-last game of the year, Curry and Golden State may have dodged a bullet after the team’s leading scorer was diagnosed with a “mild foot sprain,” and held out of the rest of the game for “precautionary reasons.”
“It’s a sprained ankle we think,” said head coach Steve Ker. “He’s in there icing it right now.”
After the Warriors secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference on Sunday night with a 131-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, head coach Steve Kerr said that the team’s only goal in the final two games of the season was keeping the roster healthy. In all likelihood, Curry — who has a history of ankle issues — will sit for Wednesday’s regular-season finale in Memphis.
“We’re going rest guys,” Kerr said. “There’s no point in playing everybody and risking injury.”
Golden State’s first step in their plan to keep everyone healthy was to split up the starters and sit half of them on Tuesday. Shooting guard Klay Thompson and forward Kevin Durant drew a night of rest first, due to what the team listed as “right knee soreness” and “flu” symptoms. Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins — along with Curry — were slated for rest anyway in the final game of the season.
Without Durant and Thompson on the floor Tuesday, Kerr opted to start rookie forward Jacob Evans and Alfonzo McKinnie. The result was a sluggish and inefficient first period that saw the Warriors go the first four minutes of the game without a bucket.
The first basket of the evening came from Curry off of a Cousins screen. Knocking down his only triple of the night, Curry got Golden State going after playing with a lid on the basket for the first four minutes of the game.
Four minutes later, as the Warriors offense slowly shook off the initial funk, Curry brought the ball up court after a Jahlil Okafor basket.
As he jogged to the 3-point line on the right wing, Curry’s right ankle bucked. As Curry rose from the floor, he limped straight to the bench while Golden State called for a full timeout.
Curry was back on the floor following the break — without a noticeable limp. And on the Warriors ensuing possession, Curry knocked down a mid-range baseline jumper to test out the ankle. After hitting his second shot of the night, Curry ran straight to the locker room, signaling that his night was over.
Before halftime, the Warriors announced that Curry had avoided hurting his twice-surgically-repaired right ankle, but would not return. In place of Curry, the Warriors inserted backup point guard Quinn Cook, who helped dictate the pace and tempo of Golden State’s offense.
In 24 minutes, Cook scored 19 points and finished as the Warriors third leading scorer behind Cousins and Jonas Jerebko, who put up 21 and 20 points, respectively.
Cook’s performance not only gives Golden State the confidence in having a formidable reserve in the event that Curry’s injury lingers, but it also extends a nine0game stretch in which Cook has played some of his best ball of the season.
Over those nine games — including Tuesday — Cook has averaged 1.6 assists and nearly 12 points while shooting nearly 70% from the floor.
“Quinn is still in a really good groove,” Kerr said. “It’s nice to see that. A lot of really good production.”
“Just keeping my rhythm. Putting in the work before and after practice,” Cook added. “Heading into these playoffs, it’s about staying aggressive and keep trying to be a great leader.”
As far as the final game of the season is concerned, the Warriors say that they’re not entirely sure how they will manage the rest of their starters, considering Curry’s ill-timed unjury.
With Durant and Thompson on deck, Golden State will have to be careful with what they choose to do with a third consecutive title on their mind.
“We prioritize our health first … I’m going to touch base with the training staff and figure it out,” Kerr said. “Probably make a decision on it in the morning.”