The Golden State Warriors come to Target Center on Sunday afternoon for their first and only visit this season, with two-time league MVP Stephen Curry back in the Bay Area injured and unavailable to play.
If you bought tickets months ago as Christmas presents for daughters and sons to catch their big-top tent show, you can feel down if you want.
Just don’t cry for the Warriors themselves.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us because we only have three All-Stars left,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Curry on Thursday night injured his right ankle for the fourth time this season. “We still have a lot of talent.”
Portland showed no mercy Friday for a Warriors team that with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson still came back to beat San Antonio without Curry and four other rotation players Thursday. The next night in Portland, the Trail Blazers thumped them 125-108 for a ninth consecutive victory that ended the Warriors’ seven-game winning streak.
The Warriors have played 16 games without Curry this season and are 11-5 in those. They’ve scored 13 fewer points a game — 119 to 103 — without him, but also have ratcheted their defense while fellow superstar Durant always seems to find another gear.
Without Curry — he played just two minutes on Thursday — Durant scored 14 of his team’s 16 points down the stretch and the Warriors came from eight points behind in final four minutes to win.
On Friday, he scored 40 points.
“We just have to get used to things without him again, without the easy buckets and spacing he provides,” Thompson told reporters after Curry left Thursday’s game in the second quarter. “We’ve played without him, so we know how to operate without him. We have to do the same we’ve done in the past. We’ve had a great record without him. …
“I know he’s a patient man and he’s got his eyes on the bigger picture. As long as he comes back healthy for the playoffs, when we need him most.”
Curry missed two games at separate times in November, 11 in December, a couple more in January and now didn’t travel with his team on a two-game trip that started in Portland and ends at Target Center on Sunday with a nationally televised game on ABC.
“Our guys understand when Steph is out, everything changes, the whole building,” Kerr said. “There’s just not as much energy and pace and frenzy and it becomes a more methodical game. We’ve played well without those 11 games [in December] — I think we went 9-2 — and our defense was great. That’s what it’s going to take. We’re going to have to take care of the ball and play great defense and find some offense.”
A league MVP himself, Durant isn’t a bad place to start. He scored 37 to beat the Spurs, then came back the next night with a 40-point game that was 10 points fewer than the 50 he scored his last time in Portland, on Valentine’s Day night last month.
He apparently was good enough that a Portland fan was ejected from the game for using inappropriate language directed at him.
“When you’re sitting courtside, you feel like you’re Teflon, you feel you can say and do whatever,” Durant told reporters after Friday’s game. “But the ref caught him. … Sometimes just shut up and watch the game, man. You had nothing to do with what’s going on on the floor. You’re not important, just a fan at the game. Watch the game and enjoy it. These guys want to get involved when you’re sitting court. Just enjoy the game, man.”
Fans will come to Target Center to see the Warriors’ traveling show and enjoy the talents of Durant, Thompson and Green, the Warriors’ Swiss Army knife who delivered an 11-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist performance Thursday after Curry left the game.
“That’s just what he does,” Kerr said. “He seems to be at his best when things go wrong for us and we have to have that fight. He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around. When he’s all over the floor, blocking shots, getting steals, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Together, Durant and Green now assume more of the ballhandling and playmaking for a team that plays unselfishly no matter who is and who isn’t in the lineup.
Role players Andre Iguodala, David West, Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw all missed Friday’s game because of injuries as well.
“I never underestimate what Draymond brings to a team,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s so unique. That intensity is what makes him who he is. Also his versatility. There’s no one really who does what he does.”
Without Curry, Durant, Green, Thompson all play on, doing what they do along with teammates whom Thibodeau calls underrated and overlooked.
“Fortunately, we have some other guys who are pretty good,” Kerr said. “We have a deep team. We’ve played without Stephen probably 15 times. We know the formula. We know what we have to do. It’s a different game: defend and take care of the ball.”
Wolves veteran guard Jamal Crawford knows the Warriors well. He was asked if he has empathy for a team that only has three healthy All-Stars now that Curry’s sidelined again.
“Not at all,” Crawford said. “They always figure out a way. I have no doubt they will.”