Kevin Durant gave the Warriors quite a scare on Wednesday night when he came up the court limping, appeared to grab at his Achilles, then quickly headed to the locker room. Fortunately, he seems to have avoided any serious injury; the team announced he would miss the remainder of the game with a calf strain, which would also mean he won’t miss any extended time as the team moves deeper into the postseason. Steve Kerr has already said he won’t be playing Game 6. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. As long as they have that guy Steph Curry, they can survive any loss- even Durant’s.
Durant has been playing like the best basketball player on the world, and very well may be right now. But Curry is the sun around which the Warriors’ solar system revolves. In the last 25 games where Durant has sat and Curry has played, the team has gone 24-1. If you’re like Charles Barkley and don’t trust stats or analytics, just go back and watch last night’s game after Durant goes down. With their original crew of Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, and Draymond Green on the floor, they ran all over the Rockets and prevented a pivotal Game 5 from getting away from them.
Curry is the one who opens things up. His range is so vast that teams are forced to trap him on pick-and-rolls at half court. Durant is dangerous, can score on anyone, insert whatever your favorite synonym for unstoppable is. But nothing in the entire league alters a defense like Curry rocketing off a pin down screen for a spot-up three. Coaches will load up one side of the court to stop Durant, but they’ll throw everything in the trash and design a completely new scheme to try and contain Curry. The Warriors have been so good because Curry is such a unique presence in the league. It’s Curry who opens up a wide-open lane to the basket because he gets double-teamed coming off a screen. It’s Curry who will give Thompson the extra inch of space he needs because he can score from, quite literally, anywhere past half-court.
Durant makes the Warriors unstoppable. But Curry is the one who made the Warriors as dangerous as they are. Without Durant, the Warriors are left without their bailout option, the guy they turn to when shots aren’t falling to finish out the game. Without Curry, they’re left without their offensive fulcrum. Durant may be the better player, but no one is more important to their team than Curry is to the Warriors. That’s why they won’t break a sweat if Durant ends up missing a few games. Why worry when you’ve got Curry?