(Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors' NBA title defense has been hit by a spate of injuries to their players, an issue they did not have to grapple with in their triumphant previous season.
League MVP Stephen Curry added to the team's health woes on Wednesday when he sat out with a left leg bruise and watched helplessly as the Warriors were blasted 114-91 by Dallas.
Golden State (29-2) are off to the best start in NBA history though they appear to be slowing from a torrid pace that saw them win their first 24 games, an NBA record. Without Curry, the league's leading scorer at 30.5 points per game, the Warriors barely resembled the run-and-gun team that blitz their opponents with ball movement and three-point shooting. "He's the MVP of the league so he’s going to make the game different," said forward Draymond Green, the only Warriors starter to play every game this season, following the defeat. "It's always different (without him)." Curry's absence was the latest in a series of ailments. Golden State also played without Harrison Barnes (ankle) and recently sidelined reserves Leandro Barbosa (shoulder) and Festus Ezeli (toe). Barnes has been out for the past 14 games, while shooting guard Klay Thompson missed a contest earlier this season that saw the Warriors lose for the first time.
Head coach Steve Kerr is also yet to take the sideline following off-season back surgeries. These are precisely the obstacles Golden State avoided during a 67-win championship campaign a season ago. Curry could miss Thursday’s game against the Houston Rockets again leaving the Warriors vulnerable against a league primed to attack the defending champs. "They're the best, which is why they’re the champs," said Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki. "(But) it’s still a long season and the rest of the West is going to keep plugging."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)