Golden State Warriors: How Fatigue Limited Stephen Curry in the Playoffs


May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) looks on against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry was expected to play a lot of minutes this season, especially with his ankle problems mostly behind him and Monta Ellis no longer on the Warriors. In fact, Curry averaged a career-high 38.2 minutes per game in 78 games during the regular season, which was the seventh most minutes per game in the NBA. Curry is the most the important player on this Warriors team, but given the fact that he had two ankle surgeries in the past two offseasons going into the 2012-2013 season, Mark Jackson probably should have monitored his minutes a little more in the regular season.

The Warriors have a fairly strong bench, which includes Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli. However, there were several times during the course of the regular season where the second unit would come in and struggle offensively. Because of this, Curry had to come back into the game earlier than expected in order to provide an offensive lift. Because of this, Curry had to play a lot of minutes this season, even sometimes in games where he shouldn’t have had to play so many. Curry was relied upon too much for his offense in the regular season, and Mark Jackson didn’t seem to manage his minutes in preparation for the postseason.

It appeared as if the abundance of minutes that Curry played during the regular season caught up with him in the playoffs. With David Lee out, he was expected to take on an even bigger load of minutes as well. He clearly seemed exhausted at times during the Spurs series. It’s also possible that his exhaustion was the reason why he tweaked his ankle again. His body was tired and had been beaten up throughout the playoffs, which could’ve caused his body to be more susceptible to injury, or, in this case, re-injury. Regardless of if that was the sole reason why he hurt his ankle again, Curry ran out of gas during the Spurs series due to his heavy load of minutes in 94 games this season.

In the Warriors’ series against the Spurs, Curry seemed a step slow at certain times. He wasn’t quite 100 percent after spraining his left ankle in Game 2 of the Denver series, but his slow pace seemed more like fatigue than the result of a bum ankle. In the postseason, Curry averaged 41.4 minutes per game in 12 games, which was the sixth most minutes per game in the NBA. In addition, he played a total of 497 minutes in 12 games, which, as of today, was the most minutes in the NBA in the postseason.

After playing every single minute (except for four seconds) of the Warriors’ Game 1 double overtime loss to the Spurs, Curry looked exhausted at several points during the rest of the series. He tweaked his left ankle again in Game 3, which the Warriors eventually lost. He played through the pain in Game 3 and had a bad limp the rest of the game. It didn’t seem like Curry would be able to play in Game 4, but he took a pain injection shot so he could play. He didn’t look as quick, but he was able to help the Warriors get the win. In Game 5, Curry’s ankle didn’t seem to be bothering him as much, but he looked flat-out exhausted.

“Curry missed several shots coming off the pick, and whether he couldn’t get the lift off the ankle, didn’t have the energy to execute, or was rushed by the way the Spurs were scrambling against and over screens, it worked,” NBA writer Matt Moore said of Curry’s performance in Game 5.

During the course of the season, Curry was called upon to make plays and play extra minutes when the Warriors struggled offensively. Jackson might have relied on him too much though, because Curry’s heavy load of minutes throughout the regular season and the playoffs potentially caused him to re-injure himself, and it caused him to perform poorly at times. He was simply exhausted. Curry is arguably a superstar in the NBA, so he will be relied upon even more in the future. Hopefully for the Warriors, Jackson will find a more efficient way to manage Curry’s minutes next season.