Steph Curry's playoff minutes plan proving tough for Warriors to maintain
Plan for Steph's playoff minutes proving hard to maintain originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Steve Kerr went into Game 5 with a plan. It seemed achievable to him, seemed reasonable for the Warriors and prudent for Stephen Curry.
Fully aware that the first-round NBA playoff series against the Kings was destined for a Game 6 on Friday and possibly a Game 7 on Sunday, the coach wanted to be vigilant about the mileage accumulated by his team’s veteran core, particularly Curry.
“It’s on my mind,” he said Wednesday, 90 minutes before Game 5 tipped off. “I would love to keep Steph around 38. It would be great to get him five minutes in each half. We’ll try to do that.”
Then came the caveat.
“But it will be based on how the game plays out,” Kerr said.
The original plan survived the first half, with Curry coming off the floor five minutes, 19 seconds, but was unceremoniously ignored after halftime.
Curry played all but 43 seconds of the second half.
This was Kerr, along with his coaching and training staffs, recognizing the circumstances. On the road, where the Warriors lost the first two games after an abysmal road record in the regular season. Tight game in a postseason series tied at 2-2.
A loss in Game 5 in Sacramento would have put the Warriors on the brink of elimination, and the same applies to Game 6 at Chase Center.
Kerr knows that probing Curry, who has trained his body to overcome signs of fatigue, typically is met with a reluctance to sit. Under these conditions, that reluctance might be vehement.
So, Curry carried on, playing 23:17 of the 24 second-half minutes, including all but 1.2 seconds of the last 14:10 of a 123-116 victory at Golden 1 Center.
He was good in the first half, better in the second. More points (12 in the first, 19 in the second). Equal number of assists (four). Fewer turnovers (three, two). An even plus/minus in the first, followed by plus-4 in the second.
The only indication of fatigue was Curry’s 0-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half after 2-of-5 shooting in the first.
This was Curry testing himself. Not his level of fitness but the depth of his desire. He was exhibiting leadership to Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and the under-22 bunch on the bench. Moreover, he couldn’t bear the thought of not being in the middle of struggle with longtime comrades Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney.
At 35, Curry knows most of his career is behind him. The remaining years deserve all he has. Every game, particularly in the playoffs, deserves full allegiance. Each moment is to be savored.
“We’re doing something that is very unique and is something that could change at any point,” Curry said after Game 5 in Sacramento. “For us to be in this position, still out there and still creating results, is really dope.
“Each one of us has gone through a lot to try to sustain the level that we’re at and we hear all the talk about, ‘How long can we do it?’”
No need to wonder why Curry eagerly played a season-high 43 minutes in Golden State’s 126-125 victory in Game 4 at Chase Center. He was on the floor for all but 94 seconds of the second half, during which he scored 19 of his 32 points. The Warriors won the second by five points.
Like Game 5, Curry in Game 4 was even better in the second half than in the first.
Curry smells the gravity of this postseason. Might be his last with Draymond. Might be their last under general manager Bob Myers. Might be the last chance for the distinguished Steph-Klay-Draymond core.
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When Curry mentions “the talk” about group nearing its end, it echoes comments he began hearing when he was a scrawny teenager. Skepticism. Doubt. Lack of faith.
But that only intensifies his commitment.
Curry finished with Game 5 with a game-high 31 points, on 12-of-25 shooting from the field, a team-high eight assists – and a Warriors triumph.
Now one victory from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals, Kerr’s goal for Curry in Game 6 won’t be much different than that which was abandoned in Game 5.
If the game requires more Curry, Kerr won’t hesitate. Nor should he, for he knows Curry will be enthusiastically willing to meet the moment.
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