Stephen Curry's first half in Game 4 was quiet, but that's not what mattered. For 19 minutes, he sprinted the court, taken the shots we're all used to him shooting and looked healthy enough that we'd forget his Game 1 ankle injury had even happened. Right as all doubt about Curry's health had been expunged, his leg slipped out from under him once again.
Just like that, it all came rushing back. When Curry didn't return in the second half, there was an even more justified cause to be panicked. The Golden State Warriors won Game 4, demolishing the lowly Houston Rockets in the second half despite the absence of the reigning MVP. The win was a relief, since Golden State now takes a 3-1 stranglehold in the series, but it did little to alleviate the real concern. What happens if Curry's right knee sprain is severe enough that he'll miss games? How serious will this end up being?
Right now, no one knows his condition, although sitting out Game 5 seems like a safe bet. Diagnosing a timetable for Curry's return is for actual team doctors, not the Internet. But what we do know very well, thanks to many similar cases repeated over time, is that sports are cruel and injuries are fickle. There are too many examples of a team seeming too good to beat before they fall ignominiously at the hands of an "unworthy" competitor. The Warriors won 73 games this season, more than anyone in the history of the league. If Curry's out, they could lose in the second round and nobody would bat an eye.
There's something to be said for Golden State's second half. During halftime, the game was tied at 56 after the Rockets played one of their best halves of the month. The Warriors watched Curry collapse as the first-half buzzer expired and they saw him return to the court, trying to warm up and crying when he realized he wouldn't be able to return. In the second half, the Warriors torched Houston, scoring 41 points in the third quarter and setting an NBA Playoffs single-game record with 21 made three-pointers, winning the game for their fallen star.
But as admirable as their performance was, that was a half and this is the playoffs. Curry's absence won't inspire the team to success like his actual presence drives them to wins, not against any team besides the Rockets. Golden State began Monday as the favorites to win it all, and now, at least until there's any word from Curry's MRI tomorrow, doubt has been cast.
There's a good chance Curry's fine. There's more injury scares in sports than actual injuries, no matter how bad the fall looked. But for as confident and sure of themselves as the Warriors have been this season, this is an abrupt reminder that no team is foolproof. The future, no matter how certain, is never safe.
3 other things
The Boston Celtics will never die
With 7:58 left in the third quarter, the Atlanta Hawks led the Celtics by 16 points. As has been the theme with the Boston Celtics this seaso,that was just where they wanted to be. They battled back in the third and trailed by only three heading into the fourth. They outplayed the Hawks in the fourth, but Jeff Teague hit three threes in the final minute to force overtime. In the extra frame, Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics were too much for a Hawks team that seemed exhausted after blowing a huge lead. Despite a monster game from Paul Millsap — he had 45 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks — Isaiah Thomas came up big in the clutch.
Thomas had 28 points and six assists to lead the Celtics. Whenever it has seems like the Celtics are done, he comes to the rescue. He packs a punch, and he's once again the reason the Celtics are alive and kicking.
The Detroit Pistons aren't moving on, but they are competitors
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Pistons 100-98 to complete the first-round sweep, but the Pistons made it a closer series than the win/loss column will show. They never backed down from the No. 1 seed in the East, challenging the Cavaliers in every game but the second. The young Pistons core — no starter is older than 26 — might not have picked up a win this postseason, but they're primed and ready to take a big step forward next season.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, will be able to rest up while the Hawks and Celtics battle it out over the next week. They're the only team in the East to complete a sweep, and a trip to the NBA Finals is looking more and more realistic.
The San Antonio Spurs put the Memphis Grizzlies out of their misery
It was unfair, but the Grizzlies needed this season to end. Injury after injury had depleted them, but, like the Pistons, they competed every single game. There was no quit, they just weren't good enough. Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger was extremely proud of his team's effort. It might be the end of an era for Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies, but what an era it was.
The Spurs did exactly what was expected of them: They took care of business. Now, they'll prep for the second round and a likely matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Play of the night
Isaiah Thomas has put the Celtics on his back all season — and he wasn't going to let them lose on Sunday. He dissected the Hawks defense to send this game to overtime and then nailed a leaning three from the corner to put the game away in the extra frame. Game after game, Thomas is proving to be one of the best in the league.
5 fun things
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Not So Secret Weapon: Nobody can stop the Warriors' deadliest play
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