Home News Why Steve Kerr limited Steph Curry’s minutes in Warriors-Timberwolves

Why Steve Kerr limited Steph Curry’s minutes in Warriors-Timberwolves


MINNEAPOLIS — Every game is a must-win for the Warriors. Steve Kerr has trimmed his rotation down to a tight nine. The last three-week sprint to the finish will be the difference between the Warriors having a puncher’s chance at a playoff berth and falling into the lottery.

So against the Timberwolves, following a dispiriting loss to the Pacers in which a film session revealed an unacceptable lack of effort — “It was nasty,” Draymond Green said — the Warriors were sure to throw everything they had at Minnesota.

The team’s effort was there, but Steph Curry, for some of the biggest moments, was not. Kerr limited Curry’s minutes to 29 (and 51 seconds) in a back-and-forth 114-110 loss. Golden State’s best player was on the bench for a key Minnesota fourth-quarter run and was a plus-6 in a four-point defeat.

“We’re trying to keep them around 30,” Kerr said of Curry’s minutes. “Trying to get him as much rest as we can. We’ve played him a lot of minutes, played him 35 two days ago. So as long as we were hanging in there, we wanted to limit the minutes a little bit. Not overplay him.”

Curry sat for the last four minutes of the third quarter and the first five minutes and six seconds of the fourth quarter. In the latter span, the Timberwolves went on a 19-8 run. Although Kerr said postgame that wasn’t the difference in the game, it was a massive momentum swing.

Golden State had entered the period with a three-point lead. By the time Kerr brought Curry back, the Warriors were staring up an eight-point hole.

“I want to play as many minutes as I’m fresh and able to, so a little bit,” Curry said when asked if his extended time on the bench surprised him. “Knowing that they were just getting on a run. The lead was kind of whittling away.”

One of the Warriors’ strengths this year has been their depth, particularly after the All-Star break. The second-unit lineups with Chris Paul, Klay Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis have been productive. But against the playoff-bound Timberwolves, Curry’s long break in the fourth quarter was jarring.

“We’ve got Chris Paul out there,” Kerr said. “We’ve got Klay, we’ve got Draymond. We’ve got great players out there. We can’t expect to just ride Steph game after game. These last few weeks have been really tough.

We’ve put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years. We can’t expect him to play 35 minutes. We’ve got five games in seven days on this road trip. If you want to say him playing 30 minutes instead of 32 was the difference between a win and a loss, I totally disagree with that. We’re trying to win the game, we’re trying to keep him fresh, too.”

Kerr’s theory that Curry needs rest has legs. In late February, the two-time MVP went through a minor slump in which he appeared fatigued. Curry ranks a modest 43rd in total minutes played, but Curry’s minutes have always been different. Nobody constantly runs like him. He takes a beating, with defenders grabbing and tugging him off the ball.

Curry is at 2,092 minutes on the season. He’s on pace to log the most playing time since his 2016-17 season. He was 28 then, in the middle of his athletic prime. He just turned 36 now.

One reason the Warriors haven’t been able to find pockets for Curry to rest is they’ve been in so many tight games. Sunday night was their 41st clutch game — defined as a score within five points in the last five minutes. Nobody has played more.

Curry has played in only 11 blowouts of at least 20 points either way this season. In those games, he topped out at 32 minutes and has played as few as 17 (in the 52-point loss to Boston).

Against Indiana last Friday, Curry played the entire fourth quarter. That didn’t work. Against the Timberwolves, they rolled the dice that their souped up bench could survive the non-Curry minutes. That didn’t work.

“We’ve got to find somewhere in the middle,” Curry said.

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