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OAKLAND - After the Warriors lost to the Spurs on Friday night, going down 2-1 in their semifinal series, and after Stephen Curry sprained his left ankle and limped off the court, he did what any normal, reasonable young man would do. He phoned his mom.

"She's my voice of reason," he said after the Warriors beat the Spurs 97-87 on Mother's Day, and tied the series at two apiece. "I was trying to vent my frustration. It seems like every time I feel somewhat healthy there's a setback."

What wisdom did Mom impart to her kid?

"It will battle test you," she said.

That meant something like, "Stop complaining and play."

Even Sunday morning, a few hours before the shockingly early 12:30 p.m. tipoff, Curry felt doubt, something he doesn't usually feel. He drove over to the Warriors' facility for early treatment and when he got out of his car, he was sore and he wasn't walking right.

Which means the Warriors' backcourt star barely could walk a few hours before the game.

He got treatment and felt his confidence rise -- not much. During warm-ups, backup point guard Jarrett Jack stole a few looks at Curry and told himself, "There's no way this kid is playing."

An hour before the game, with nothing decided, coach Mark Jackson made his approach to Curry. Jackson must have felt trepidation even though he swears by Jack, who ended up scoring 24 points. But Jack is not Curry and, this we know, the Warriors cannot defeat the San Antonio Spurs with Curry lounging on the bench, his ankle swollen and throbbing.

"How are you feeling?" Jackson asked Curry.

"I'm going to give you what I got, Coach," Curry said.

"That's not the language he speaks," Jackson told himself. He was talking about Curry's words being tentative and conditional.

Jackson knew Curry was not 100 percent and needed to discuss this with general manager Bob Myers, whom he accosted in a hallway.

They stared at each other. They spoke quietly. They said they'd be fine one way or another -- it was a reference to the existence of Jack. And they went from there.

But in the first half, Jackson took Curry out of the game several times, times he never takes Curry out of the game. Jackson even considered sitting Curry down entirely. "But I thought he was giving us enough and he wasn't a problem on the defensive end," Jackson said.

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had his own doubts about Curry:

"You could see he was not as aggressive, especially at the beginning of the game. He's a player that you may see him playing one leg, one arm, and you got to guard him. You got to respect him. He can really go off at any time. He's that type of player. Kind of was silent for a big part of the game, but then made big plays."

Indeed, Curry ended up with 22 points -- pretty good for a mere mortal, a little skimpy for a child of the hoops gods. In overtime, when the Spurs grew old in plain sight and scored three ridiculous points, Curry just about put away the game with a driving layup on his gimp ankle. He got fouled and made the free throw.

Before that, he had mostly been stationary, like a mailbox positioned on the court. "I didn't want to start, stop too quick, change direction too quick," Curry said. "Most of the way, I scored off transition, getting a great screen from my bigs and walking into a 3. I didn't really do too much shifting. I was able to still find some open looks."

To compensate for Curry not being Curry, Jackson told Harrison Barnes to shoot the heck out of the ball, and Barnes -- is this guy really a rookie? -- scored 26.

Afterward, Curry sat in front of his locker both feet in a bucket of ice. Call the tableau "Curry on Ice."

Did he have any mobility?

"Honestly, not much," he said.

"I had enough going straight and back and forth, enough to make somewhat of a cut. My vertical -- I'm not a jumper anyway -- but that was where I felt the most pressure, landing and bracing myself after I jumped. I wanted to be somewhat of a threat. I didn't have to dominate the ball or attack the paint every possession. I don't think I ever hit, really, my top speed. Just whatever I could give and not get hurt again. A couple of times in overtime, I drove the paint and I still didn't have my full thrust. Looking back, I probably shouldn't have done it."

So, what do we make of this Warriors' win?

The Warriors may or may not take this thrilling series, the essence of playoff basketball. No one knows who will win. But we know this.

They beat the Spurs in a Spurs' kind of game. It was low-scoring. A low score favors San Antonio's slow, pensive style, and frustrates the Warriors' run-like-your-pants-are-on-fire speed style.

The Warriors won a grind-it-out game, the kind of game that favors the Spurs with their experience -- they've seen everything -- and their extreme poise. Andrew Bogut (18 rebounds) even blocked a Tim Duncan shot. When does that happen?

And the Warriors won with Curry not actually walking. He was ambulating, a more general concept.

When the lively crowd finally left the arena late afternoon, the cars on 880 whizzing by, the sun still shone. If felt like a comment of sorts.

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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