December 09, 2014

Now that Steve Kerr has been named the NBA's coach of the year, he faces his greatest challenge of his coaching career.

He'll have to guide the Golden State Warriors without Stephen Curry for the time being as they look to close out their first-round series against the Houston Rockets in Game 5 at home Wednesday night.

Kerr earned the honor Tuesday thanks to Golden State's NBA-record 73 wins. It must be bittersweet in the aftermath of the news the day before that Curry is expected to miss at least two weeks with a Grade 1 sprain of the MCL in his right knee.

That means the Warriors will be without the NBA's leading scorer for the duration of this series and potentially a good chunk of the second round should they advance.

''From our perspective, it's relatively good news,'' general manager Bob Myers said. ''Clearly we don't want to be here getting MRIs at this point of the season, especially someone of Steph's stature. ... But mechanically the knee is intact, so that's good.''

Myers said the two-week estimate is an educated guess based on how players typically respond to similar injuries, but cautioned the absence could be three weeks or possibly slightly shorter.

Curry returned Sunday after missing Games 2 and 3 with a sprained right ankle before he suffered the knee injury on the final play of the first half of a 121-94 victory. He didn't return after halftime as the Warriors rallied around the loss of their fallen star by outscoring Houston 41-20 in the third quarter to emphatically break a tie.

''When you have a team that is as together as ours is and cares about each other like ours does, you tend to pick up the fight a little bit,'' Kerr said. ''Our guys sensed that we needed to come together.''

Shaun Livingston figures to replace Curry in the lineup again after he scored 16 in each of his first two starts in this series.

Klay Thompson scored 23 points and Andre Iguodala added 22 on Sunday for the Warriors, who became the first team to win on the road in this series and can finish it against a Rockets team that has lost five playoff games at Oracle Arena the last two seasons as part of a nine-game skid there.

Houston was left lamenting a missed opportunity to take advantage of Curry's absence and even the series.

''Terrible way, terrible way, terrible way to lose ... just a terrible quarter and that's what gave the game away,'' star guard James Harden said.

Harden is averaging 24.5 points on 37.7 percent shooting in the series with 30 assists over the last three games.

Dwight Howard has double-doubles in all four games with averages of 14.5 points and 12.3 boards. He's shooting 65.7 percent and the Rockets have yet to find a way to get him more than 10 shots in this series.

"We just gotta get him the ball," Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "We gotta throw it down there. We feel like we have an advantage in the post."

These teams ranked first and second in the regular season in 3-point attempts, with Golden State averaging 31.6 and Houston 30.9. The Warriors are shooting 39.8 percent on 3s on 113 attempts in this series while the Rockets are connecting at a 29.1 percent clip on 110.

Houston isn't looking to get into another shooting contest as it tries to force a Game 6 at home Friday.

"You see the 3s going, you see the 3s going and then in your mind it's 'Oh we need to get some 3s to stay in the game,' and then the ball doesn't get back to the post where it needs to," Bickerstaff said. "We need to make sure it's more of a focus for us and that we understand that in those moments to settle us down and to make them have to defend we need to get the ball to the guys in the post."

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