Stephen Curry is making steady progress in rehab for his sprained knee, but a loss in Game 3 for the Golden State Warriors could speed up the process for the NBA MVP return to the lineup.
Curry missed his fourth consecutive game on Saturday, a 120-108 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that cut the Warriors' lead in the series to 2-1. Curry was hurt in Game 4 of his team's opening-round series against the Houston Rockets, slipping on a wet spot on the court and banging his knee. He had been hopeful to return in that game, but was unable and the team kept him out of the remainder of the opening round series.Team doctors diagnosed Curry's injury as a Grade 1 sprain, the lowest level but still serious. Past players who suffered MCL sprains have been out anywhere from a week to nearly two months.
Curry had been hopeful earlier in the week that he would be able to play in Saturday's game, but ESPN had reported on Friday that he would likely be kept out of Saturday's game. The team to this point has been very careful about his rehab, easing him into actual scrimmaging drills.
Stephen Curry took that step in the last two days, coach Steve Kerr said.
"It was [Curry's] first actual basketball, played 2-on-2 with the coaching staff," Kerr said before Saturday's game. "He's doing fine. He's not going to play tonight."
Kerr called the move "another good sign," noting that Curry will now be moving into 5-on-5 scrimmaging.
There could be a bit more pressure to get Stephen Curry back into the lineup now that the Blazers have cut into the series lead. The series is closer than it looks, with the Blazers close in the opening losses. In Game 3, Damian Lillard had a playoff-best 40 points.
"I think we played a lot smarter down the stretch than we did the last game, and we challenged them," Lillard said (via ESPN). "Last game, I think, we played good, and then we let up a little bit, and they turned it on -- like championship teams do.... Tonight, we didn't allow that to happen. We kept doing what was working for us."Lillard has given the Warriors problems in the past, and the Blazers have now become the only team to beat the Warriors more than once during a season in which Golden State reeled off an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said earlier in the series that he believes his team will be able to compete with the Warriors, but they failed to seize on opportunities in the first two games. With the series remaining in Portland for Game 4, the Blazers are hoping to press their advantage and even the series.
There had been some thought that the Warriors may keep Curry out until the Western Conference finals, especially if they had won on Saturday to take what would have been a commanding 3-0 lead. But now there could be more pressure to bring him back rather than risk giving the Blazers a chance to get back into the series.
Stephen Curry could be speeding up his return as well.
Kerr said Curry hasn't yet pressed him to return to the lineup, but he said, "I imagine that's coming soon."
The signs are pointing in that direction -- Kerr had noted that Curry needed to progress through five-on-five drills to return from a separate ankle injury in the first round against the Rockets, and now he appears to be on that same path.
[Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]