The situation was not as devastating as many initially thought.
In Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant went down with a right calf injury, heading to the locker room in the middle of the third quarter. Warriors fans held their breath in hopes that the two-time champion and Finals MVP was going to be alright.
Oracle Arena was filled with a level of tension, as the injury could not have come at a more inopportune time. The series was tied 2-2 and the Rockets were on the edge of taking a series lead.
The magnitude of Durant's value, who had been the MVP of the playoffs so far, was resonating like never before.
But of course, Golden State has another superstar, one that is the only unanimous MVP in league history. Yes, I'm talking about Stephen Curry, who was not going to let his team down when they needed him most.
That's what stars are for, to perform at their best under the highest pressure. And from the moment that Durant left the game against the Rockets, Curry returned to his old ways, the ones that were never lost but perhaps contained.
When the prolific version of Curry was unleashed, the reality was clear again - he is one of the best players in the league, without question.
Game 2 was another example of Curry's excellence, who put together a stellar performance for another Warriors win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The 114-111 final score that put the Warriors up 2-0 can be explained, in large part, by the superb play of their star guard, who went for 37 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 39 minutes of play.
The Warriors trailed by as much as 17, and Curry played a huge role in their comeback.
With that performance, Curry proved once again that without Durant, he puts his best foot forward. It shows in his emotions - something that seemed off during the Rockets series - as well as in his numbers.
How has Curry responded since Durant's injury?
This is what Curry has done without Durant on the floor in his last four games:
- He scored 16 of Golden State's final 36 points to close out the Rockets in Game 5. In those 14 minutes, Curry went 5-for-9 field and 2-for-3 from long range, adding two rebounds and two assists.
- He scored 33 points in the second half of Game 6, a vital performance to close the series against Houston.
- He went for 36 points, seven assists and six rebounds in Game 1 against Portland and tied his playoff career-high with nine made 3-pointers.
- He put up 37 points (11-21 FG), eight rebounds and eight assists in Game 2 against Portland, which helped the Warriors overcome a 17-point deficit.
That means Curry has accumulated 122 points on 19-for-43 shooting from the perimeter (44.2%) to go along with 21 rebounds, 21 assists and just 10 turnovers since Durant's injury.
And how is that different from when Curry and Durant share the court in the postseason? Very.
Curry scoring 171 points in 176 minutes - a rate of almost a point per minute - without Durant in the lineup is a good way to summarize it.
|With Durant (Totals)||335||193||53||44||44.1||29-78 (37.2%)||26|
|With Durant (per 40 minutes)||-||23.1||6.3||5.3||-||-||3.1|
|Without Durant (Totals)||176||171||29||32||47.7||27-67 (40.2%)||16|
|Without Durant (per 40 minutes)||-||38.8||6.6||7.2||-||-||3.6|
To be clear, this is not to prove that the Warriors are better without Durant. It's simply to say that they are different, especially in style of play.
It also serves as a reminder of what Curry is truly capable of when he's in full control of the offence.
Sat down with @StephenCurry30 and we talked about allllll the stuff: What it's like playing without KD, which style he likes better, what it meant to beat the Rockets ("you saw how we celebrated"), plus facing his baby brother in this series with Portland. pic.twitter.com/1VqcygQfPR- Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 16, 2019
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