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Steph Curry's latest ankle injury puts Golden State Warriors in tough spot

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USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt discuss whether the West is in a league of its own in the NBA. USA TODAY Sports

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OAKLAND — Priorities have a way of changing quickly when everything’s on the line.

One moment the Golden State Warriors were sharing their grandiose plans for the home stretch of the regular season, floating the idea that they might finish with a 24-game winning streak and thus remind the NBA masses that the Larry O’Brien trophy still resides here. Then three games later, when Steph Curry went down with yet another ankle sprain just two minutes into Thursday night’s 110-107 win against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena, it was time to reassess.

The No. 1 seed that’s in peril with the streaking Houston Rockets up one in the loss column and, in essence, up two because they hold the tiebreaker? It’s not nearly as important as Curry getting fully healthy again in time for the playoffs.

Box score:Warriors 110, Spurs 107

Especially considering the context.

Just when you thought the flashbacks to Curry’s ankle problems were over, the two-time MVP finds himself facing some of those old nightmares again. This was the fourth right ankle injury for Curry since Dec. 4, when he suffered a sprain against New Orleans and was sidelined for nearly a month.

Then came the Jan. 10 re-sprain, a minor tweak that only cost him two games but raised concerns because, well, it came during a team shoot-around. It happened again on March 2 against Atlanta, although Curry recovered quickly and even helped the Warriors finish off the Hawks that very same night. Lest anyone forgot, this is the same right ankle that required two surgeries to get right back in April of 2011 and May of 2012 en route to his rise.

But the Warriors (51-14) certainly remember, and so now the question of how they handle this from here will be front and center. Curry will skip Friday’s trip to Portland as well as Sunday’s visit to Minnesota.

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The fact that Curry wanted to go back in against the Spurs is as good a sign as any that it’s not serious, but the return of this troubling trend is more than enough to justify the Warriors’ cautious approach.

“He said (this ankle turn) was a little bit like the Atlanta one,” Kerr said. “He wanted to lobby to come back in the game, but we wouldn’t let him … We’ve got to be careful with it.”

Curry has long since learned that he doesn’t have the final say when it comes to these matters of health. Kerr leans on team trainer Chelsea Lane to come to a verdict, with the greater good always mattering most of all.

“It’s not that hard (to tell him he can’t come back), actually,” Kerr said with a smile. “Chelsea and I have a much better view of the big picture than Steph does. Of course he wants to go back in the game, but it’s a pretty simple decision, so we just tell him, ‘Sorry, maybe next game.’”

PHOTOS: Stephen Curry through the years

Stephen Curry through the years

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Flip through the gallery to see Golden State Warriors

Flip through the gallery to see Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry through the years.  Robert Hanashiro, USAT
2007: Stephen Curry of the Davidson Wildcats tries

2007: Curry tries a layup between Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love of the UCLA Bruins.  Harry How, Getty Images
2008: Davidson's Stephen Curry reacts as his team defeats

2008: Curry reacts as his team defeats Elon 65-49 in the Southern Conference championship game.  Mary Ann Chastain, AP
2008: Stephen Curry of the Davidson Wildcats celebrates

2008: Curry celebrates a basket against the Georgetown Hoyas during the second round of the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Streeter Lecka, Getty Images
2009: Davidson's Stephen Curry shoots as Butler's Shelvin

2009: Curry shoots as Butler’s Shelvin Mack defends during the first half of an NCAA basketball game.  Chuck Burton, AP
2009: Jordan Hill, Stephen Curry, Hasheem Thabeet and

2009: Jordan Hill, Curry, Hasheem Thabeet and Ricky Rubio joke around before the 63rd annual NBA Draft.  Emile Wamsteker, USA TODAY
2009: Stephen Curry is drafted by Golden State with

2009: Curry is drafted by Golden State with the seventh pick.  Emile Wamsteker, USA TODAY
2009: Rookie guard Stephen Curry hangs in the air as

2009: Curry hangs in the air as he flies past the Clippers’ Al Thornton.  Robert Hanashiro, USAT
2009: Golden State rookie Stephen Curry drives to the

2009: Curry drives to the hoop past the Clippers’ Baron Davis.  Robert Hanashiro, USAT
2011: Golden State's Stephen Curry during the NBA All-Star

2011: Curry during the NBA All-Star Saturday Skills Competition at Staples Center.  Robert Hanashiro, USAT
2012: Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry

2012: Curry shoots a layup against Washington Wizards guard John Wall.  Brad Mills, US Presswire
2012: Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack react to a foul

2012: Curry and Jarrett Jack react to a foul call against the Washington Wizards.  Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports
2013: Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee

2013: David Lee hugs Curry.  Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports
2013: Stephen Curry passes the ball against Boston

2013: Curry passes the ball against Boston Celtics power forward Jeff Green.  Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports
2013: Stephen Curry attempts a shot against the Washington

2013: Curry attempts a shot against the Washington Wizards.  Ed Szczepanski, USA TODAY Sports
2013: Stephen Curry pictured at the Bay Bridge.

2013: Curry pictured at the Bay Bridge.  Will Leitch, USA TODAY Sports
2014: Stephen Curry reacts after the Warriors make

2014: Curry reacts after the Warriors make a three-point basket.  Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
2014: Stephen Curry controls the ball in front of Puerto

2014: Curry controls the ball in front of Puerto Rico guard David Huertas.  Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
2014: Stephen Curry poses for a photo during media

2014: Curry poses for a photo during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry shoots during the 2015 NBA All-Star

2015: Curry shoots during the 2015 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest.  Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry celebrates against the San Antonio

2015: Curry celebrates against the San Antonio Spurs.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry walks off the court after a win

2015: Curry walks off the court after a win against the New Orleans Pelicans.  Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry with the 2014-2015 NBA Most Valuable

2015: Curry with the 2014-2015 NBA Most Valuable Player trophy at the Oakland Convention Center.  Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry shoots as Houston Rockets guard

2015: Curry shoots as Houston Rockets guard Nick Johnson defends.  Pool Photo, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry and Riley Curry address the media

2015: Curry and daughter Riley address the media in a press conference after Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry celebrates winning Game 6 of the

2015: Curry celebrates winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry kisses the Larry O'Brien Trophy

2015: Curry kisses the Larry O’Brien Trophy after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry talks with his wife Ayesha Curry

2015: Curry talks with his wife Ayesha during the Golden State Warriors 2015 championship celebration.  Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
2015: Stephen Curry is filmed in motion capture for

2015: Curry is filmed in motion capture for NBA 2K16.  Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY
2015: President Barack Obama speaks with Stephen Curry

2015: President Barack Obama speaks with Curry while golfing.  Steven Senne, AP
2015: Stephen Curry shakes hands with Kobe Bryant before

2015: Curry shakes hands with Kobe Bryant before a game at Oracle Arena.  Kyle Terada,USA TODAY Sports
2016: Curry handles the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers

2016: Curry handles the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.  Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
2016: Curry celebrates a three-point basket in the

2016: Curry celebrates a three-point basket in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  David Richard, USA TODAY Sports
2016: Curry hoists the MVP trophy before Game 5 of

2016: Curry hoists the MVP trophy before Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2016: Curry and Kevin Durant laugh during media day

2016: Curry and Kevin Durant laugh during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2017: Curry warms up before Game 1 of the Finals.

2017: Curry warms up before Game 1 of the Finals.  Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
2017: Kevin Durant and Curry celebrate with his daughter

2017: Kevin Durant and Curry celebrate with his daughter Riley after winning the NBA championship.  Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports

Yet when it comes to the Warriors, there’s always a silver lining in times like these. They showed during that 11-game absence that Curry being out is hardly a death knell, as they not only went 9-2 during that span but had the league’s top defensive rating (98.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats, compared to their 103.3 mark for the season that has them ranked sixth). Having multiple MVPs never hurts. On Thursday, Kevin Durant (37 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) played the hero part to perfection.

The Warriors aren’t about to wave the white flag on the prospect of home court advantage throughout the postseason, but their measured approach comes in stark contrast to their infamous past. Case in point: Draymond Green, the three-time All-Star who pushed so hard two years ago when their 73-win record was all for naught.

“I think (the No. 1 seed is) something that’s kind of been on the backburner,” he said. “It’s not really something that we’ve talked about at all.

“We’ve been here for a few years now. We know what it takes to take a championship. I’m not sure that there’s any series we’ve been in where we didn’t win a road game, so if you’re going to win it you’ve got to win on the road anyway, so we’re not worried about that.”

Then again, they just might be good enough to get this job done anyway. Eight of the Warriors’ final 17 games are at home, with 10 of those coming against teams that currently have winning records.

“Who doesn’t want to be the No. 1 seed?” Green continued. “If I sat here and said, ‘Oh, we don’t care. We don’t want to be the No. 1 seed,’ I’d be lying to you. But it’s not something that we’re worried about. And it’s also not something where we’re going to say, ‘Oh Steph’s out, it’s over. We can’t do it.’ Like no, next man up.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @sam_amick.

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