OAKLAND (AP) — Stephen Curry surprised coach Steve Kerr with how quickly he found his groove the past two games after returning from a right knee injury, even with a few more misses than usual for the MVP.
Now, Curry and the Golden State Warriors push into the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City counting on their superstar to be fully healthy for an entire round for the first time this postseason.
There’s no way he won’t be making as big an impact as he possibly can as the defending champions move closer to their goal of a repeat title.
“Hopefully, it will be close to 100 percent by Monday night,” Curry said after Friday’s practice.
Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who carried the load on both ends of the floor during Curry’s absence for much of the first two rounds, is counting on it.
So far, Curry’s return has been seamless — even more so than Kerr had foreseen. The Coach of the Year figured there might be a transition period as everybody got comfortable again.
“It has (been smooth),” Thompson said. “Anyone can see that. He hasn’t missed a beat.”
Draymond Green practiced after injuring his left ankle during Wednesday’s series clincher against Portland, while 7-foot center Andrew Bogut sat out Friday’s workout with a strained muscle in his right leg.
The hope is that Bogut will return to practice Saturday and be ready for Monday night’s Game 1 of the best-of-seven series against the Thunder at Oracle Arena. An MRI wasn’t in the plans for Bogut’s injury, Kerr said.
After a whirlwind week that included becoming the NBA’s first unanimous MVP on Tuesday, Curry looked forward to taking some much-needed downtime between now and the next round to rest his body and mind.
“You go from missing three weeks, two and a half weeks to playing significant minutes in 48 hours, especially with what the day in between was like, it kind of shocks your body,” Curry said. “So you’ve got to take advantage of these three days we have off to get refreshed and rejuvenated mentally and physically, and get ready to play.”
Curry came off the bench and overcame a slow start to score 40 points in a 132-125 Game 4 overtime win at Portland on Monday night, including an NBA-record 17 in overtime. He then started and scored 29 in Wednesday’s clincher against the Trail Blazers.
“It went really well, obviously. He was much better than we could have ever hoped or expected given the length of time that he was out,” Kerr said. “He was phenomenal in both games, showing why he was the MVP. Now it’s great to get him a few days of practice, a few more days to treat the injury. Hopefully we can put this injury behind him by the time we start this next series.”
Golden State won all three meetings with the Thunder, who eliminated San Antonio in Game 6 on Thursday night after dropping the series opener, during its remarkable regular season that ended with 73 wins to top the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best regular-season record ever. That included a 121-118 overtime win Feb. 27 at Oklahoma City in which Curry hit a 3-pointer a few feet in from halfcourt to win it.
He knows it will be far tougher on the pressure-packed playoff stage.
“After Game 1 it’s pretty impressive how OKC turned it around and put that behind them, which is a lesson for the playoffs as a whole,” Curry said. “Each game takes its own identity.”
The do-everything point guard still expects more from himself, saying he can improve his consistency over the course of 48 minutes — which will be needed against Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the aggressive, hard-nosed rebounding Thunder.
“I’ve finished both games strong but over the course of the entire game I haven’t been as in sync as I want to,” he said. “It’s obviously good things to look forward to hopefully the next series.”