DALLAS, TX — For those of you who thought the Golden State Warriors were going to cruise to 70-plus victories this year, pump the breaks.
Just like the other 29 NBA teams, the defending champions have to go through the grind of an 82-game season. And when you do that, there’s a great chance you’re going to fight the injury bug at some point.
For Golden State that time is now, as Stephen Curry sat out his first game of the season on Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks due to a bruised lower left leg. With the NBA’s leading scorer and reigning MVP on the sideline, Golden State looked like anything but the team who has the best record in NBA history through 31 games.
The Mavericks steamrolled the Warriors, 114-91, giving Golden State its second loss of the season and ending a modest five-game winning streak. Curry’s absence was noticeable from the opening tip and highlights how valuable he is to the defending NBA champions.
“He’s one of the rare players in this league that affects the entire game just by being on the court,” Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said. “We run our offense because we know that in a certain manner, and we have spacing and we have role players that complement each other nicely. Obviously without him out there, the spacing won’t be as good, the drags that we like doing so much aren’t as effective.”
“Pretty much everything we do gets affected by a player like that, but we’re confident that even while he’s out, we should still be able to compete better than that and win ballgames.”
Besides Curry, Walton and the Warriors also didn’t have Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa available due to various injuries. It doesn’t matter how good you are or who you play for, if you’re missing four of your top eight rotation players, it’s almost impossible to consistently win games in the Association.
“I think people forget we’ve got like four guys out,” said Andre Iguodala, who had 12 points. “We’ve been playing at such a high level, that gets overlooked sometimes.”
Curry’s normal supporting cast of Draymond Green and his fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson each shot 4-of-15 from the field, and neither could find their usual rhythm with the “Baby-Faced Assassin” on the bench in a sports coat.
“That’s 30 points and a lot of playmaking, so we’ve just got to collectively try and chip in,” said Thompson, who had 10 points. “We had great looks. It was just one of those nights.”
The good news for Golden State is that Curry’s status is listed as day-to-day after an MRI revealed no structural damage in his leg. Odds are he should be back in the lineup when the team returns to the Bay to take on the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets.
On the other hand, the bad news is the Warriors play the Houston Rockets on the back end of a back-to-back Thursday night and will most likely be without their star guard again, and things haven’t gone well when he’s been on the bench.
So far this season, the Warriors have been outscored by 101 points in the 460 minutes when Curry has been off the floor, while outscoring opponents by 482 points during 1,043 minutes when he’s on the floor.
But despite the Warriors clearly being out of sync without their MVP, they aren’t going to make excuses while he’s missing games.
“We got to be better defensively and offensively,” Green said. “Who knows how long Steph is going to be out. We can’t just lose games because he’s out. We’ve got to make it work.”
Props to the Warriors for taking their second loss of the season like champions, but even Stevie Wonder can see that if there’s no “Chef Curry” in the lineup, they’re just another good team.