HOUSTON — Stephen Curry wanted back in — again.
All around him at the Toyota Center on Sunday afternoon, with the Golden State Warriors’ hopes of a title defense hanging in the balance and the reigning MVP with tears in his eyes having just been told that a third-quarter return from this right knee injury was just too risky, there was noise. There were Houston Rockets fans revealing a lesser side, cheering as he left because, well, the Rockets’ Game 3 win that took place while Curry sat with a sprained right ankle had shown that there was hope so long as he didn’t take part.
There were the more-sensible types, too, the ones who simply celebrated a 56-56 halftime score that had seemed so unlikely since Curry had been on the floor until he hit the deck on that fluky play — guarding Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, slipping on a wet spot just before halftime when his legs bent and a right knee sprain ensued. And per the Warriors’ norm, there was the always-vocal Draymond Green.
"He was shook up; he was crying," the Warriors forward told USA TODAY Sports. "It’s pain. It’s wanting to be out there with your guys. He was quiet, so I said everything to him.
"I just told him, 'Hold your head up. It’ll be all right. But then get the (expletive) out of here.' We got you. Get out of here."
They had him this time, downing the Rockets 121-94 to take a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday. But picking up this kind of slack for more than a game or two? That’s something else entirely. And the Warriors, who will have an MRI conducted on Curry’s knee on Monday to determine the severity of the situation, are clearly worried.
"High," Green said when asked about the level of concern. "You’ve got to be. You’re talking knee. It’s obviously not the same ankle and stuff (that he suffered in Game 1). ... You’re talking a knee sprain."
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Truth be told, you’re talking about a failed title defense if Curry can’t come back anytime soon.
The soon-to-be two-time MVP, who has long since become the center of the Warriors’ universe, did not speak to reporters afterward, but the way he gingerly left the arena said more than enough. With a bag of popcorn in his hand and Warriors’ security at his side, Curry — his knee taped up and a somber look upon his face — slowly made his way toward the team bus.
He stopped to talk with some friends along the way, the group of five even huddling for a lengthy prayer before he left. If Warriors coach Steve Kerr had been there, one would assume he would have joined in.
"Back to square one," Kerr said. "We’ll see what happens with the MRI tomorrow."
As if seeing their best player go down wasn’t enough, Green was incensed at the fans who he said seemed to revel in Curry’s pain. Reporters on hand heard it loud and clear, and the Warriors themselves were convinced that there had been a heavy dose of salt poured in their wound.
"Yeah, that was garbage," Green said. "You don’t do that. That’s not classy. You usually cheer for somebody getting off the ground, not for somebody limping. That’s garbage. It’s not cool.
"He has to live that. He’s not going to walk out of this arena, and be like ‘Oh, his knee is fine.’ He’s going to go sit on the plane and go get up to walk, and his knee’s going to be hurting. He’s going to get home and drive home, and get out of the car and his knee’s going to be hurting. You live that every day."
How long the Warriors can live without him, of course, is another matter entirely.
Follow Sam Amick on Twitter @sam_amick.