-- Stephen Curry is getting thoroughly outplayed by Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference finals. The reigning MVP is shooting just 41.9 percent for the series, missing open layups and surrendering triple-doubles to his opponent. The popular theory is that he doesn't look like himself.
Maybe Curry is hurt. Is his sprained MCL that he suffered in the first round bothering him?
When asked about the knee injury after Game 4, Curry assured the media, "I'm fine."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the injury concern. "I know he's not injured -- if he were injured, he would not be playing," Kerr said. "Is he bothered a little bit, perhaps by the layoff when he went three weeks without a game? He may not be quite where he needs to be, but it's not an injury, and that's the important thing."
Is there any objective data to suggest Curry's knee isn't right? This is where analytics can help. If a knee injury were slowing Curry down -- one sign he isn't "quite where he needs to be" -- then we'd probably see something in the player-tracking numbers that we have for every game.
But the interesting thing is that Curry is playing faster on average now than he did in the regular season. Actually, his overall speed in the past two losses is higher than it was in the 2015 playoffs when Golden State won the title.
Here are the numbers.
Curry averaged 4.45 miles per hour in Game 3 and 4.47 mph in Game 4, according to SportVU data here at ESPN. It turns out those numbers are slightly faster than his average overall speed in the postseason (4.42 mph) and regular season (4.32 mph).
So we can see, looking at the big picture, that he's playing faster than usual.
You might be thinking, "OK, but OKC plays faster. That's fudging the numbers." I checked into that too. Curry's speed in three regular-season matchups against the Thunder stood at just 4.28 mph. He's stepping on the gas more now.
To be clear, this doesn't mean that Curry isn't hurting, or that he has not slowed in some other more granular way. Perhaps it takes him longer to hit top speed, or maybe he's coasting at a higher speed simply because it's more painful for him to start and stop quickly. Also, overall speed doesn't entirely capture his quickness or his first step.
Still, this player-tracking data is a surprise. Before looking at the numbers, we might have suspected that Curry would show some sort of downturn on the speedometer.
Our eyes might say that he doesn't look right and he's slowing down, but our eyes also could be deceiving us. Maybe this is just a case of confirmation bias, where we know he's struggling to match his usual stats, so we're only looking for things to confirm what the box score is telling us.
It's also true that Curry is missing shots -- including easy layups! -- and he's turning the ball over like mad. In fact, according to SportVU data analysis, of the six easiest looks that Curry has gotten in the past two games, he has made exactly none of them. He's 0-for-6 on those gimmes.
Of course, if some of those fall as they normally do, we're probably not talking about his knee.
Curry might be hurt, but his speed numbers don't tell that story at all.