Warriors vs. Celtics: Steph Curry’s minutes must increase in Game 2 with Golden State desperate to even Finals

The Golden State Warriors have to win Game 2. No team in Finals history has lost the first two games at home and come back to win the series. It’s time for the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency approach.

Our Sam Quinn offered three tactical/lineup adjustments Golden State can make in Game 2, but he didn’t include the most obvious one: Play Stephen Curry more. Curry only played 38 minutes in Game 1. Steve Kerr is notoriously careful with Curry’s minutes, but I can’t find a justifiable reason for playing Curry fewer than 40 minutes in a Finals game.

Give Kerr the benefit of the doubt. It was only Game 1. We all think this is going to be a long series and Curry’s burden on both ends is high. But this Celtics defense is too good and the Warriors simply don’t have enough offensive creation without Curry, particularly when Jordan Poole’s minutes could be subject to reduction moving forward if he doesn’t pick up his defense and shot-making.

There’s statistical support for Kerr’s decision to rest Curry five minutes — one fewer minute than his normal rest — to start the second quarter in Game 1. Over that stretch the Warriors actually increased their lead from four to six, and in theory, if they can merely break even in the non-Curry minutes it’s a win.

But every non-Curry minute isn’t a threat to break the dam. He only sat two and a half minutes to start the fourth quarter, and in that time the Celtics cut a 12-point lead to five, and when Curry returned he wasn’t able to re-flip the momentum.

Curry is arguably the most well-conditioned player in the league. He’s built his body for these situations. He’s healthy. After the Game 1 loss, Curry was asked if he’d like to stay on the court in the second quarter, particularly when he has a hot hand as he did Thursday with a record-breaking six first-quarter 3-pointers, or if he’d rather stick to the normal rotations to keep himself fresh and trust others to find their own rhythm in his absence.

“It’s the latter,” Curry said. “But it’s also understanding how the series develops. At most, we got six games left. Make the necessary adjustments.”

Make the necessary adjustments. This is thinly veiled code for play me more. There’s not a doubt in the world that Curry wants to be on the court more. He’s right that it’s about the Warriors “understanding how the series develops.” Had they won the opener, they would have some leeway. But they didn’t, so they don’t.

This game on Sunday night is everything. It’s Game 7, for all intents and purposes. Go out swinging with your best player. My guess is Kerr will do just that. Curry will probably only sit four minutes to start the second quarter, and if the game is anywhere close, Curry going the whole second half shouldn’t be off the table. At most, a two-minute breather to start the fourth. That would put Curry at 42 minutes for the game. He’s more than capable of that, plus more if necessary. This is what stars do. It’s now or never.

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