After a rusty Game 1 coming off the bench, Steph Curry exploded as the Warriors’ Sixth Man on Monday night. The two-time NBA MVP scored 34 points in 22 minutes to lead Golden State to a 126-106 first-round playoff win over the Denver Nuggets.A
Curry missed the final 12 regular-season games with a bone bruise and sprained ligament in his left foot. So, the Warriors chose to bring Curry off the bench for Games 1 and 2 because it’s easier to manage his minutes restriction from that role than in the starting lineup.
After the Game 2 win, Draymond Green pointed out the obvious that Curry will return to the starting lineup — and likely at some point soon. On Tuesday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke with 95.7 The Game’s “Damon & Ratto” and discussed the team’s plan for Curry heading into Games 3 and 4 in Denver.
“Obviously, it’s not going to last long,” Kerr said of Curry coming off the bench. “He’s one of the greatest players of all time. At some point, he’s going to be back in the starting lineup. It’s going to all be based on how many minutes he can play and what the training staff is telling me. In the meantime, [Nuggets coach] Mike Malone said it after the game; he’s the greatest Sixth Man in the history of the NBA. It’s not a bad problem to have.”
Curry’s willingness to come off the bench for the Warriors’ playoff re-entrance speaks to his unselfish nature and desire to win above all else. After Curry’s Game 2 explosion, Kerr described his star guard as the perfect blend of arrogant on the court and humble off it.
Unsurprisingly, when the time came to discuss bringing him off the bench to start the series, Curry didn’t give Kerr any problems.
“It’s really not my ability. It’s just his willingness,” Kerr said. “It’s not even a plea. It’s more of a conversation. You know, ‘Here’s where we are, and here’s what it would like to start and what it would look like to come off the bench. What do you want to do? What do you prefer?’ The main thing is that I want Steph to be comfortable. The more comfortable he is, the better he is going to play.
“It was really easy for him. He just thought about it and said, ‘No, let’s bring me off the bench. That makes the most sense.’ That was it. There’s no drama with Steph.”
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Curry’s return, coupled with Jordan Poole’s meteoric ascension, has given the Warriors an embarrassment of riches on offense. Golden State’s new unnamed death lineup has ripped Denver apart in both games and appears to have broken the Nuggets’ spirit.
“You have three guys that are capable of putting up 30, 40 points,” Malone said after Game 2. “Jordan Poole had 30 points in Game 1, he had 29 tonight. Steph Curry is the greatest Sixth Man ever in the Playoffs. They bring a guy off the bench like that, 34 points, five threes … and then Klay Thompson.”
The Nuggets present the perfect matchup for the Warriors in Round 1. Despite Nikola Jokic’s greatness, Denver lacks the perimeter defenders to make life hard on Curry, Poole, Thompson and Andrew Wiggins. Add in the Nuggets’ lack of rim protection and the absence of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., and you have the recipe for what looks like a quick series.
That the Warriors have dominated the first two games will allow Kerr to be cautious with Curry. But after Curry’s latest performance, it won’t be a surprise to see him back in the starting lineup as early as Thursday for Game 3.