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COHN: Without Curry, Warriors look like basket case

Miami's LeBron James drives toward the hoop through Carl Landry (7) and the rest of the Warriors' defense during Wednesday night's game.

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ / Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 11:20 p.m.

OAKLAND -- Pardon me for committing heresy on Wednesday. What was my heresy? I didn't write about Colin Kaepernick's Little League coach or Jim Harbaugh's haircut or Jed York's seventh-grade history teacher.

In short, I didn't write about 49ers' stuff — and we're getting pretty deep into 49er trivia these days as we search for story ideas. The Niners will play a game on Sunday in Atlanta but they didn't play a game on Wednesday and, according to well-placed sources, will not play a game today or Friday or Saturday.

The Golden State Warriors, on the other hand, were playing a real game, a live game involving running and jumping and shooting and sweating. There is something to be said for a game as opposed to an interview opportunity although, for all I know, Warriors' coach Mark Jackson had a terrific Little League experience he's dying to talk about. The Warriors' game was against the Miami Heat. You remember those guys. They are the reigning champs in that other league, the NBA, which features a game called basketball.

The Heat have certain distinguished players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. People in the know tend to find them interesting. The Heat also had lost three of four games on their current road trip.

In their previous game, a loss at Utah, coach Erik Spoelstra benched Wade the entire fourth quarter and played Bosh a mere 40 seconds in the fourth. That melodrama led to the usual Nervous Nellies wondering if all those stars can play together, and if Spoelstra, who looks 17, is old enough to buy a beer and if his superstars pay attention to him or giggle behind his back.

So, there was a real live storyline when it came to the Heat and the Warriors — granted, it had nothing on Michael Crabtree's taste in athletic footwear or Trent Baalke's workout routine.

The story line was even juicier because the Warriors beat the Heat by two points last month in Miami.

If all that hubbub wasn't enough, the Warriors were dealt a blow during their Wednesday shootaround, a casual exercise not known for danger. Stephen Curry, the best Warrior, stepped on the foot of Festus Ezeli and sprained his right ankle. That right ankle. The one that had the surgery. The sensitive ankle that is also a sensitive topic.

Before the game, Jackson said Curry definitely would not play against the Heat, something most normal people would consider a big-time handicap.

“I'm not a doctor,” said Jackson, who is not a doctor, “but I can't imagine it turning into something more (than a few games). We're not concerned.”

Maybe he's not concerned long term — although Jackson did not seem quite as confident about Curry after the game — but Wednesday's contest against Miami still loomed. It's not like Jackson could announce, “Steph's ankle hurts so we're canceling.”

In place of Curry, Jackson started Jarrett Jack, who has been coming off the bench.

“I have extreme confidence in my point guards, in Jarrett Jack, and also Charles Jenkins is a proven guy,” Jackson said before the game.

“I have no problem playing him. And I'm sure those guys will hold the fort down.”

Let's drift away from basketball a moment and enter the world of word usage. It's what Jackson said about “those guys will hold the fort down.”

That always has been an interesting expression. You have an image of a lighter-than-air plastic fort sold by Toys R Us, a fort on the point of flying away. Thankfully, the brave Warriors try with all their might to keep the fort firmly on the ground.

The Warriors didn't exactly hold down the fort on Wednesday. And they sure didn't hold it, either.

They got smoked and trailed 80-50 after three quarters. They “closed” to a 17-point deficit at the end when the Heat players who never play got to play. “We faced a team that remembered what took place in South Beach and came to make their point,” Jackson said later. “That's what all-time great players do.”

It became clear sometime in the second quarter that, while the Heat have flat-out phenomenal players, one of them being the best in the league, the Warriors have a group of good players — give them that.

But they are not so good when Curry is sitting on the bench in a business suit.

Here is Jackson on the Curry Factor:

“One thing I told (the players) is they made a heck of a case for Steph Curry to be in the All Star Game because, if we can go from a top-notch team to the team that played tonight just with missing one guy, that says a lot about him.”

The necessity of Curry is an obvious lesson, and maybe I didn't have to sit through a painful blowout to learn it.

But there's something else. The Warriors' greatest nightmare going into this season was to have Curry and Andrew Bogut out at the same time. On Wednesday, we witnessed the nightmare in its full horror, and it was ugly.

Of course, I could have ignored the Warriors' nightmare and written about something earth-shattering like the identity of Justin Smith's favorite cartoon character — Superman, in case you're dying to know.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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