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NBA Playoffs: Should the Warriors Rest Stephen Curry?

NBA Playoffs: Should the Warriors Rest Stephen Curry?
Stephen Curry supports his Golden State Warriors from the bench during Game 2 of their series against the Houston Rockets. | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Stephen Curry is as important to his team’s success as any player in the NBA. The soon-to-be two-time league MVP scores in bunches, dishes out assists at will, and also plays a big role on the Golden State Warriors’ defense with his timely steals. As the postseason continues, it’s clear that the Warriors will need their point guard to be at full strength as the matchups become more competitive and the pressure ramps up.

That is why it’s critical for the team to handle Curry’s latest ankle issue correctly as they look to defend last season’s championship. In Game 1 of Golden State’s first-round series against the Houston Rockets, Curry was on fire before he rolled his ankle late in the second quarter, forcing him to miss the remainder of the game. The Warriors cruised to a victory by 26 points in that game. However, when Game 2 arrived two days later, the team made the decision to rest their superstar due to the injury.

Golden State managed to win again, taking a 2-0 series lead and proving their superiority over the Rockets. With the series seemingly under control and a long haul remaining in the postseason, the Warriors now have a serious consideration to make in regards to Curry.

They can either choose to sit him out and see if they can wrap up the first-round series while Curry allows his ankle to heal or they can allow Curry to play and essentially guarantee an opening-round sweep — while, of course, risking further damage to his ankle with critical playoff matchups still to come. With three key reasons, we think the answer to this dilemma is to allow him to rest up. Here’s why.

Strong bench play

NBA Playoffs: Should the Warriors Rest Stephen Curry?
Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

While Curry is the clear leader of the Warriors as one of the top players in the game, Golden State’s roster is full of guys who contributed to their record-setting 73-win regular season. Aside from a starting lineup that includes Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, the team has one of the strongest benches in the league, which can make up for their superstar’s absence for the remainder of the series against the Rockets.

Shaun Livingston, the backup point guard to Curry, stepped up in Monday’s win with 16 points, six assists, and two steals in 29 minutes of action. Andre Iguodala, last season’s Finals MVP, also played huge in the win, coming off the bench to play 33 minutes with 18 points, three assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Other non-starters like Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli have the ability to minimize the impact of lacking Curry as well.

No one player can replicate what Steph does for his team on a nightly basis. However, playing against a team that simply doesn’t have the assets to handle the Warriors’ firepower, Golden State has a group of guys who can take care of the Rockets for two more games — even without their sharp-shooting star.

Klay Thompson and Draymond Green

NBA Playoffs: Should the Warriors Rest Stephen Curry?
Draymond Green and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The other half of the “Splash Brothers” duo, Klay Thompson is a legitimate scorer who can handle the workload for the Warriors in Curry’s absence. During the regular season, Thompson averaged 22.1 points per game while shooting better than 42% from three-point range. So far in the postseason, the Washington State product has managed 25 points per night in two contests, highlighted by a 34-point outburst in Monday’s Game 2 win.

While certainly not the same caliber of player as Curry, Thompson can hold his own and fuel the Warriors’ charge toward a sweep of Houston. While Thompson can take care of the scoring, Draymond Green can handle the passing and lock-down defense that is missing when the star is on the bench. As somewhat of a point forward, Green has averaged 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals, 2.5 blocks, and 12 points per game in the first two games of the playoffs, showing the versatility that makes him such a valuable asset to the Warriors.

With the combination of Thompson and Green, as well as the bench play we mentioned earlier, this team has enough, minus Curry, to handle a Rockets team that relies solely on the brilliance of James Harden.

History of ankle problems

NBA Playoffs: Should the Warriors Rest Stephen Curry?
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Knowing Curry’s history of ankle injuries, Golden State would be wise to rest their superstar for the remainder of their series against the Rockets, no matter how much he wants to play. Back in 2011-12, Curry played just 26 games because of a sprained ankle. He also had surgery on his right ankle in 2011 to repair a torn ligament. Even though he hasn’t missed much action since then (just 14 total missed games over the past four seasons, including the playoffs), the way Curry plays will always put pressure on his ankles.

In what should definitely be their easiest matchup of the postseason, adding injury risk against the Rockets simply isn’t necessary. If the goal for the Warriors is to defend their title and not just to embarrass the Houston Rockets (which they may do even without Curry), then the smart move would be to sit their star until the next series begins — unless, of course, Houston finds a way to get back in the series, which we don’t see happening.

With upcoming series against the Clippers, Spurs, and Cavs potentially looming, they will need Curry to be as close to 100% as possible. They have the weapons to finish off the Rockets and in the meantime, Curry’s ankles will be thankful for a much-needed hiatus from the court.

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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