The San Antonio Spurs are suddenly the team with a relaxed point guard who can dominate, and the Golden State Warriors are back to worrying about theirs.
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Tony Parker cracked jokes and declared he’d ”definitely” start before he rested face down on a table for a massage on his bruised left calf during San Antonio’s practice at the University of San Francisco on Saturday. Stephen Curry never surfaced during the portion of Golden State’s light shootaround open to reporters at the team’s downtown Oakland headquarters, going through treatment on his nagging left ankle behind closed doors.
The Warriors said X-rays on Curry’s ankle were negative and no MRI exam is scheduled. Curry told a pool reporter in the afternoon that he’s hopeful to play – though remained murky about how much or how well – and is officially a game-time decision for Sunday’s critical Game 4 tilt of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
”You never really know how it’s going to feel the next day,” Curry said. ”You just keep with the treatment. Same ol’ story. I have the same answers.”
Just as this season began with questions about his troublesome ankles, the biggest game of Curry’s career is being overshadowed by questions about his durability.
Curry came off a curl and his left ankle – which he sprained in Game 2 in the first round against Denver but seemed to finally be back to full strength – landed awkwardly when he planted his feet to receive the ball with a little less than five minutes remaining. Curry hobbled around but stayed in the game, with nervous chants of ”Curry! Curry!” breaking out among the yellow-shirt wearing sellout crowd of 19,596.
Curry limped out of the locker room and walked down a long hallway with his left ankle – not the twice surgically repaired right ankle that has sidelined him in past seasons – wrapped in black tape. Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Curry appeared in better spirits when the two passed each other at an intersection driving to practice in the morning and Curry waved and honked his car horn.
”I’ve been there where I’ve put my head down, didn’t want to talk to my coach,” Jackson said.
The tight turnaround between games likely won’t help Curry’s cause. Sunday’s game starts at 12:30 p.m. local time, giving him about 38 hours from the end of Friday night’s game to recover.
Curry said he’s not planning on receiving another anti-inflammatory injection to help ease the pain, which he did after Game 2 and before Game 3 against Denver for the first time in his career, because ”you don’t want to get into that kind of habit.”
”I’m hoping my body responds on its own enough to eliminate that from the conversation,” he said.
The setback for San Antonio’s All-Star point guard seems far less severe.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut inadvertently kicked Parker’s calf in the fourth quarter. Parker came out of the game briefly, and trainers wrapped his leg as he sat on the bench.
Parker said the bruise ”feels like a baseball in my calf” and limited his ability to elevate on shots when he returned. Doctors determined no X-rays were necessary, and he planned to spend the off day trying to loosen up the muscle, including working out in a pool.
”I just can’t see myself not playing,” said Parker, who scored 25 of his 32 points in the first half of San Antonio’s 102-92 win Friday night at Oracle Arena to regain home-court advantage. ”I’ll definitely play.”
So much about this Western Conference semifinal has flip-flopped, and both sides remained cautious knowing it easily could again.
The Warriors led for 95 of 106 minutes in the first two games, leaving San Antonio with a disappointing split after blowing a 16-point lead in the final four minutes of Game 1 to lose in double overtime. Curry and backcourt teammate Klay Thompson took turns with scintillating shooting displays, then both went cold in Game 3 for the first time.
San Antonio outshot Golden State 50.6 to 39.3 percent by curbing Curry and Thompson on the perimeter, though the Spurs didn’t feel like they defended any differently.
”There’s no answer to anything like that,” Popovich said. ”You just play the game. Some nights you shoot it better than other nights. They didn’t shoot it as well as they did, and we shot better. If there was a formula for that, everybody would be shooting 50 of 60 percent every night.”
If Curry can’t play or is limited, that surely wouldn’t bode well for Golden State’s chances of regain its streak shooting stroke.
Jarrett Jack would receive more minutes, but the savvy veteran hardly commands as much attention as Curry, who made an NBA-record 272 3-pointers in the regular season. The Warriors went 2-2 without Curry this season, including a 95-88 loss at San Antonio on Jan. 18, when Jack scored 20 points as the starter.
Both teams are prepared to make major adjustments if Curry or Parker is limited. Each also hopes that doesn’t happen, knowing the style of the game would be entirely different.
”It probably wouldn’t be as fun of a game, honestly,” Thompson said. ”They are two of the most entertaining guards to watch in the NBA.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP