By defying age, Steph is giving Warriors reason to believe originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – It defies physics to leave teammates in the distance while simultaneously waiting patiently for them to catch up, yet Stephen Curry has done it for three weeks. It’s sorcery, and it says a lot about the Warriors.
Mainly that even with that awkward, two-timeline pursuit, they’re certain to get appreciably better.
The NBA regular season is mostly about offense, and Curry is crushing it. This is his 14th season and the first in which he scored at least 30 points in eight of his first 10 games. He’s second in the league in scoring, averaging 32.6 points. His 6.9 assists per game are higher than any previous season under coach Steve Kerr. His 2.6 turnovers per game are the lowest of any season he played a full season.
Curry is on target for his second 50-40-90 season, and he was the unanimous NBA MVP the first time he did it. That was 2015-16, when he turned 28.
He’ll turn 35 this season.
Curry doesn’t create a long list of individual goals for each season, but the hallowed 50-40-90 – percentages from the field, from distance and from the line – always is at or near the top.
“Absolutely,” Curry said Thursday. “We always talk about efficiency and the standard you set, especially as a volume shot taker and scorer it’s really hard to do. I’ve only done it once, but I came close a couple times. It is something I strive for just because I know what it takes – especially the 50 part, that’s the hardest part, because of the shots that you have to take, the attention you get on the defensive side and all of that. If I can be efficient, be productive and hit those numbers, it usually means good things.”
One of the reasons Curry’s statistics seem, well, implausible is that two of his three high-scoring teammates – Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole – have yet to hit their stride. Thompson is averaging 15.1 points per game on 36.0-percent shooting, including 32.6 percent beyond the arc – both career lows by a wide margin. Poole is averaging 15.2 points on 40.6-percent shooting, including 30.1 from deep – well below the numbers he posted last season.
Put another way, Curry is carrying the Warriors’ load out of necessity, and doing it exquisitely, while he awaits the warmup of backcourt buddies.
He expresses zero doubt that Thompson and Poole will join Andrew Wiggins (18.2 points, 47.9-percent shooting, including 40.3 from deep) in lending a hand at pulling the Warriors out of the early-season slide that has them at 4-7.
“We all are in the same boat, trying to do all facets of the game better,” Curry said, describing the state of the team. “Sometimes it’s the not-so-glamorous stuff, the box-outs, the defending without fouling, the energy that you have to play with every minute that you’re out there on the court.
“On offense, just being able to hit the open guy, make quick decisions, make the defense read and react to ball movement and body movement, which is our system. Everybody being in sync on that end makes the game easy for everybody, not just me.”
There is good reason for the Warriors to be concerned about their defense because it is mediocre to hideous by every metric. Bottom five in defensive rating, bottom 10 in field goal percentage defense, 17th in 3-point field goal defense, to name three.
But a few more field goals from shooters not named Curry could have turned some of those losses into wins.
Those are going to come. And when they do, there will be games when Golden State’s offense obscures its defense, regardless of quality. The barrage of points will make a statement.
“Championship caliber,” Curry said. “Kind of pick-your-poison situation, where you don’t know where it’s coming from. You have to worry about shooters all over the court. You’ve got to worry about Draymond [Green] driving down the lane, having options on both sides.”
Until that happens – and the defense becomes satisfactory, if not splendid – Curry is the Warriors’ best hope to keep the bottom from falling out. As if his scoring and playmaking weren’t enough, he’s even rebounding at a career-high rate.
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“Some people say it’s a championship hangover, how our season started,” Curry said. “But part of it is the championship confidence of how the last year ended and how I was playing, the work I put in this summer, ultimate confidence and just letting the game come to you. Depending on how the defensive is playing you, depending on what the game calls for.
“I’ve got to keep doing it until we can continue to, hopefully, get wins and make strides and continue to play better in all facets of our game. It’s not surprising. It’s just what I expect to do.”
What Curry is doing is creating an environment that allows his teammates and coaches to believe good times are coming.
Can he maintain this marvelous level? If not, he’ll have help. And if so, it won’t be because he has to but because he can.
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