The Golden State Warriors hope to have Stephen Curry back in the lineup Saturday night when the defending NBA champions open their Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the surprising New Orleans Pelicans.
The former two-time Most Valuable Player practiced with his teammates Thursday and Friday but noted afterward a final decision on whether he plays for the first time since March 23 rests in the hands of Golden State's medical staff after the Game 1 warmups.
"I'm getting there for sure," Curry claimed Friday. "I've done a lot in the last two weeks, especially with my feet, getting back to movements that I may do in a game. My knee feels pretty good. I don't have any pain."
Curry, who suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee in a collision with teammate JaVale McGee in a game against Atlanta, missed the most recent game against the Pelicans on April 3.
New Orleans won that game 126-120 to salvage one win in the four-game season series.
That win was one of just two the Pelicans have managed against the Warriors in their last 28 meetings, including Golden State's first-round sweep in 2015 en route to their first of two titles in the last three seasons.
What the Warriors saw earlier this month, however, was impressive, as the new-look Pelicans, without injured center DeMarcus Cousins but with newcomer Nikola Mirotic, were firing on all cylinders on Golden State's home court.
Mirotic hit six 3-pointers on a 28-point night, Jrue Holiday chipped in with 25 points, and both Anthony Davis (34 points, 12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (12 points, 17 assists) posted double-doubles in the offensive explosion.
The sixth-seeded Pelicans stunned Portland with similar balance in the first round, with Davis (33.0 points, 12.0 rebounds) and Rondo (11.3 points, 13.3 assists) both averaging double-doubles, and Holiday (27.8 points) and Mirotic (18.3) combined for 46.1 points.
But that was against the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. Now the Pelicans are up against a team that has lost a total of just two games in its last five playoff series.
"We know what we're capable of doing," noted Pelicans backup Ian Clark, who played a key role off the bench in the Warriors' championship run last season. "We like the underdog role. We know we're going against (the Warriors), but why not us? Why not be able to take down the defending champions and keep moving and keep this sentimental story going?"
For the second series in a row, the Warriors' Steve Kerr will be up against one of his best friends in the coaching fraternity.
There were few laughs when he got the better of Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in the first round, with Kerr's former coach having missed the last three games of the series after the death of his wife, Erin.
Kerr clearly is looking forward to starting fresh against the Pelicans' Alvin Gentry, who was Kerr's offensive coordinator during the 2015 championship run.
"He'll try to throw me for a loop. I'll try to throw him for a loop," Kerr said. "Some things will work. Some things won't work. But we can laugh and joke about how we're the masterminds behind the success of our teams."
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