ATLANTA — Midway through the third quarter Friday, after seeing Stephen Curry limp slightly, Warriors team trainer Chelsea Lane told head coach Steve Kerr that Curry needed to cut his night short.
There was no reason to have him risk re-injuring his right ankle in an early March game against one of the NBA’s worst teams. After making his case to Lane and Kerr on the sideline, Curry relented and sat as a precaution.
That his tweaked ankle isn’t considered serious was the biggest takeaway from a night when Golden State escaped Philips Arena with a 114-109 win over the Hawks. With three days to rest before Tuesday’s home game against Brooklyn, Curry doesn’t expect to miss any more time.
“Knowing I’ve been through this plenty of times, I’m not worried about it,” said Curry, who was sidelined earlier this season for more than three weeks with a sprained right ankle. “The one thing we were able to kind of rule out was a re-aggravation of the old injury. So, that’s obviously a bright spot.”
After trailing most of the game, Atlanta used a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to 111-109 with 19.9 seconds left. After a Kevin Durant free throw extended the Warriors’ lead to three, Andre Iguodala stripped Hawks guard Kent Bazemore, darted downcourt and threw down a one-handed dunk with 6.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Now, after finishing their East Coast road trip 3-0, the Warriors return to Oakland for a two-game homestand. Curry will spend the time off icing his ankle to limit swelling. Should the two-time MVP experience pain, Golden State figures to be cautious with him.
“He was limping a little,” Kerr said of Curry, who scored 28 points in 24 minutes. “He wanted to stay in, but we didn’t want to let him stay in just because of the potential.”
Added Durant: “I wasn’t concerned. He wanted to keep playing. When he said that, I knew everything was all right.”
Half a decade ago, Curry was a promising 24-year-old playmaker so prone to ankle sprains that many wondered whether he could stay on the court long enough to realize his potential. In May 2011, after spraining his right ankle several times in his second NBA season, Curry underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments. The following season, he suffered five ankle sprains and missed 56 games.
Over the past five years, as he averaged 78.8 games, Curry hushed doubts about those balky ankles. That is, until he badly rolled his right ankle lunging for a steal late in the Warriors’ Dec. 4 win over New Orleans.
Curry returned 12 games later, averaging 35.2 points over five games, then missed two more games when he slipped at a shoot-around and re-sprained his right ankle. Multiple times in the past six weeks he has appeared to tweak that ankle before checking back into the game.
It didn’t keep Curry from riding a steady stream of workhorse performances into the MVP discussion. Entering Friday, he led the NBA in three-pointers per game (4.2) and ranked tied for third in free-throw percentage (91.8), tied for fourth in points per game (26.7) and tied for 12th in assists per game (6.4). Curry’s true shooting percentage — a stat that combines his shooting on two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws — was a league-high 67.1.
He scored 10 points Friday before colliding with Zaza Pachulia near the Hawks’ basket and rolling his right ankle. Within 122 seconds of returning midway through the second quarter, Curry added another 11 points. Late in the period, while drawing contact at the top of the key, Curry drained a jumper, crumpled to the floor and climbed back to his feet with no apparent problems.
His ankle tightened during halftime, however, and Lane noticed not all was right with Curry early in the third quarter. Curry knew his efforts to stay in the game were pointless when Kerr joined Lane during that timeout in telling him to end his night early.
“It’s frustrating,” Curry said. “But in the big picture, it’s all good.”