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How Warriors survived Stephen Curry’s injury and put him in position to lead NBA Playoff push

Wait, Stephen Curry did what?

That was a common reaction after the Warriors announced that their All-Star guard left a Feb. 4 game against the Mavericks with a leg injury. Curry suffered “partial tears to his superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane as well as a contusion to his lower leg.”

That update confused anyone without a medical degree, but the main takeaway was easy to understand: Golden State would have to move forward minus Curry for an extended stretch.


The Warriors were 27-26 at the time of his injury, grinding to get out of the Play-In Tournament. The loss of Curry spelled danger for a team that had a goal of defending its title.

Fast forward one month later, and Golden State somehow finds itself higher in the Western Conference standings than it was when Curry went down. Steve Kerr’s squad is sitting at No. 5 with a 34-30 record, marking the first time it is four games above .500 this season.

How have the Warriors survived? Their other “Splash Brother,” Klay Thompson, has been lighting up the scoreboard. He is averaging 27.1 points in the last 11 games without Curry and shooting 46.3 percent on 12.2 3-point attempts per game.

Jordan Poole may never be quite as efficient as Curry or Thompson, but he has continued his season-long trend of being more aggressive as a starter (24.5 points per game) than a bench player (14.7).

The biggest change, though, has been Golden State’s focus and attention to detail on the defensive end.

During their current five-game winning streak, the Warriors’ defensive rating is down to a stifling 100.6. Draymond Green and his teammates have locked in on their game plans, recently limiting Damian Lillard with blitzes and blowing up the Clippers’ offense by sagging off Russell Westbrook.

They’ve also dominated defensively without the services of Andrew Wiggins, who is away from the team because of an ongoing personal matter.

“Between Draymond and [Kevon Looney] directing the defense, our guards getting back on the glass, defending without fouling for the most part and just staying solid, I think we’re finding something,” Kerr said.

And now, the cavalry is coming in the form of the greatest shooter alive. Curry is expected to make his return for the Warriors’ matchup with the Lakers on Sunday, according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes.

It’s easy to forget in the midst of the Antetokounmpo-Embiid-Jokic debate, but Curry looked like a top MVP candidate before health issues took their toll. He is averaging 29.4 points, 6.4 assists and 6.3 rebounds with 49.5/42.7/92.2 shooting splits, and his on vs. off numbers once again illustrate his impact.

When Golden State gets Curry and Wiggins back, it will be able to roll out the most effective five-man unit in the NBA. Among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes this season, the Curry-Thompson-Wiggins-Green-Looney group stands above the crowd with a ridiculous 21.9 net rating. (To put that figure in perspective, the Cavaliers are No. 1 in the league with an overall net rating of 5.7.)

The road back to the NBA Playoffs won’t be easy, of course. The Warriors have the eighth-toughest remaining schedule, per Tankathon, and they are an unimpressive 20-18 with Curry. They can’t fall back into old habits when he suits up and assume he will cover up every problem.

But Golden State managed to at least give Curry a fighting chance to lead another deep postseason run — and that is a scary thought for the rest of the West.

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