BOSTON — There was a lot for the Golden State Warriors to digest following their 116-100 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. But on the top of their minds after falling behind 2-1 in the series was the status of their superstar, Stephen Curry.
With 4:16 left in the game and the Warriors down by 12, Curry dove to the floor to try to secure a loose ball. He was met by Boston’s Al Horford, and as the two struggled to secure the possession, Horford rolled on top of Curry’s left leg.
Curry remained on the floor for a few minutes, writing in pain.
“I saw him getting dove on,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “So I picked up my foul pushing people off him because he’s screaming at the bottom of the pile.”
Curry came up with a noticeable limp.
“Obviously, in some pain, but I’ll be all right,” Curry said. “We’ll see how it responds. Not much other to say. I don’t feel like I’ll miss a game. Take advantage of these next 48 hours to get ready.”
As Curry entered and exited the news conference room after the game, he walked gingerly, trying to avoid putting any real pressure on his left foot.
Curry said the injury felt close to what he suffered against the visiting Celtics in March, when he sprained his foot on a similar play involving Marcus Smart. That play resulted in Curry straining his left foot — the same foot affected in Game 3 — and missing the last month of the regular season. Wednesday’s injury, Curry said, felt less severe.
“[Horford is] a big body, obviously,” Curry said. “I haven’t seen the play, so I don’t know if it could have been avoided or not. I was in that situation with Marcus back in the Bay, and you just want to get your foot out of there. That’s all I was trying to do at that point, knowing the position I was in. Like I said, for what I feel like, it’s not as bad. So hopefully, it responds well over the next two days.”
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said with a stern tone.
Losing Curry, even for just one game, would be detrimental to the Warriors’ title hopes. Even a banged-up Curry wouldn’t bode well for Golden State.
Through the first three games, Curry has been the Warriors’ best player and the only source of consistency. In Game 3, he scored 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including six 3-pointers. He finally got some help from Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who finished with 25 points, but that was in exchange for a largely absent Green.
Green scored just two points and failed to provide any impact on defense. He didn’t give the level of focus or intensity he had provided the Warriors previously in this series. And he crowded out when he went to Curry’s aid in the late scrum.
“I was s—,” Green said, his son by his side as he took questions from the media. Later on, he called himself “soft.”
Green’s performance didn’t stop Celtics fans from raining down “F— you, Draymond” chants consistently throughout the night.
“We’ve played in front of rude people before,” Thompson said. “Dropping F-bombs with children in the crowd. Real classy. Good job, Boston.”
Golden State guard Jordan Poole contributed 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting but continued to struggle to find a meaningful way to impact his team.
Boston made Curry work for every shot he took, smothering him on defense all night. The Celtics held Curry to attempt just two plays in transition after averaging five such plays per game in the first two games.
They also forced Curry out of the paint, as he shot just three field goal attempts from within 9 feet of the basket. (He combined for 12 such attempts in Games 1 and 2.)
“Their personal and the way that they defend, they are very physical,” Curry said. “They have a way of, obviously with Marcus on the ball, he’s pretty aggressive, and Robert [Williams III] behind the play, they usually have lot of length and size on the wings.”
Because he couldn’t drive to the rim and create contact, Curry attempted just one free throw — a flagrant foul 1 penalty shot in the third quarter after it was deemed Horford didn’t give Curry enough landing room on his made 3-point shot.
“I don’t know why there’s only one free throw,” Curry said. “Felt like there’s a couple possessions or plays that could have gone my way.”
The last time Curry had just one free throw attempt in a playoff game was in 2018.
“It is hard to understand the flow of the game based on some of the calls that went my way where I have four and you’re having to defend a certain way because you want to stay on the floor and not allow that to impact the game,” Curry said. “But you know, you’ve still got to find a way to be effective no matter how the game’s being called, and it’s a good lesson to learn for the next game.”
The Warriors’ loss wasn’t because of the free throw disparity. (Boston shot 24 to Golden State’s 15.) But it did have to with the level of physicality the Celtics played with.
Boston beyondbounded Golden State 47-31, including 15-6 on offensive boards. The Celtics also outscored the Warriors in the paint 52-26.
“That was really the main issue — the point-of-attack defense,” Kerr said. “They got past us. It wasn’t based on any sets they were running. It was more just they were coming downhill at us, and they got past us, and that hurt us.”
The Warriors trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half. But just as they have every game this series, they played a tremendous third quarter, even taking a lead shortly after a seven-point possession late in the period. But they weren’t able to sustain it in the fourth, leading to the Celtics closing out the game.
The Warriors know they need to find a way to play more consistently throughout all 48 minutes. They know they need to bring the force that they found in the Game 2 victory. They know they need to get more contributions down the rotation.
But they all know that none of this will truly matter if Curry is not available.
“We need him if we want to win this thing,” Thompson said. “I know Steph is going to do everything he can in his power to play. I am really hoping he’s OK because he’s our identity, and without him, it will be very difficult.”