LOS ANGELES — The Golden State Warriors are looking formidable again with the return of Stephen Curry, while the Los Angeles Clippers are better but still trying to find their way during an injury-marred season.
When the two Western Conference foes meet Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, the Warriors will be riding a three-game winning streak, all with Curry working his magic again. They still won nine of 11 games while he was out with a sprained right ankle, but they had lost two of those last four and those two defeats came at home (Nuggets, Hornets).
Curry’s return has been seamless. He has averaged 33 points per game in his three games back in the fold, easily above his 27.1 points per game average this season. And nobody in the NBA this season has made more than the 10 3-pointers he connected on last Saturday in his return.
The Warriors did dispatch the Houston Rockets 124-114 on Thursday, doing it without forward Kevin Durant, who has a strained right calf. The injury is not considered serious, although Durant’s status for Saturday’s game was listed as “questionable.”
Forward Omri Casspi also missed the Warriors’ last two games with a mid-back strain, while forward David West sprained his left ankle late in Thursday’s victory over the Rockets.
For the Clippers, and their coaching staff, their own injury report has been poured over just as much as the next team’s scouting report. All but one opening night starter (center DeAndre Jordan) has missed significant time with injury.
Point guard Patrick Beverley is already lost for the season after knee surgery, while forward Danilo Gallinari is out at least until February with a strained glute.
The Clippers do have two other point guards besides Beverley, but Austin Rivers has missed the last three games with an ankle strain and Milos Teodosic suffered his second foot strain of the season in Thursday’s defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Next up at point guard is high-scoring sixth-man Lou Williams, as the Clippers have still managed to win six of their last eight games.
“We’ll figure it out by Saturday, I guess,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of his guard situation, according to the Los Angeles Times. “When you have your three point guards out, we just can’t have Lou bringing the ball up all game. So even if we use Blake (Griffin) as the guy that brings the ball up the floor, we literally don’t have another guy right now.”
Leaning heavily on Griffin to play point guard has its concerns, and not only because he is a 6-foot-10 power forward. Griffin missed a month with a sprained left knee and is only four games into his return.
Like Curry, Griffin has rebounded quickly from injury. He has averaged 23.5 points, seven rebounds and 6.75 assists over his last four games.
Griffin and Jordan might find more room to move if Durant does not pay Saturday, or if he is not 100 percent healthy. But the Clippers’ roster was constructed to have defensive-minded guards like Rivers and Beverley guard the perimeter and neither are likely to play. As if dealing with Curry and Thompson wasn’t difficult enough.
Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points in Thursday’s victory over the Rockets, while Draymond Green recorded a triple-double. It was Green’s 21st career triple-double, most in Warriors franchise history, and an indication of how hard he continues to work while surrounded by superstars.
“He’s made a nice living off of his uniqueness and what he brings to our team,” Curry said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “There might be nights he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he still finds a way to be impactful. Just from the eye test watching the game, you can see he’s all over the place.”
Making things even more ominous for the Clippers on Saturday is the fact that the Warriors have won nine consecutive road games. Golden State has also won six consecutive games against the Clippers at Staples Center and 11 consecutive in the series.