His rookie year Steph Curry had one 40 point game. It was on the last game of the season against the Blazers in Portland. The Warriors weren’t going to the playoffs while the Blazers had a 50 win team. In game 82 on a Wednesday in 2010, Blazers star forward LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t play and was a spectator to Curry’s 48 minutes. Going into the 4th the Warriors were trailing by six. Curry’s 25 foot three with nine minutes left broke the tie. He added another 3 from the same distance when the score was tied again. Despite playing 48 minutes, Curry only took 25 shots and 6 threes. He was hardly dominating the action. He ended up with 42 points, 12 of which came from the line. He shot 66% from three, had 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. He even blocked a shot and had two steals.
Six years later, Curry the vet had (ten) 40 point games and (three) 50 point games. He was the reigning MVP and NBA champion. Once again, on the last game of the season he dropped 40+. This time it was at home against Memphis and was to seal the best regular season record in NBA history. Curry took 19 threes in that game and had 4 rebounds and 6 assists. For the game he was +19. That season, Curry played in 79 games for 34 minutes. His 20 shots a game were a career high and he paid the price. In the playoffs, the regular season workload had Curry drained. In Game 7 against the Cavs, he shot 31% and missed 10 threes.
Curry’s 40% from three efficiency went on vacation in the 2016 playoffs because of fatigue. He played in 18 playoff games, was injured for 6. In 50% of playoff games played that year he shot less than 40% from three. Curry wasn’t Curry. Part was health but the season wore him down.
The next year, the Warriors acquired Kevin Durant and Curry’s numbers were depressed. Fewer shot attempts. Fewer minutes. But a fresher Curry come playoffs.
It’s back to the future for Curry and the Warriors. Without a compliment of offensive talent and without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Curry is going to have to do more and a lot of it. He’ll return to his 2015-16 year when he was untouchable with the rock. No one could guard him. But then again, that season he had Klay Thompson as a compliment. D’Angelo Russell is a nice player but he’s not Klay Thompson. If it comes down to a decision on who to double team, I’ll take my chances with D-Lo and swarm Curry.
Curry is going to have to do more facilitating as well. If he’s averaging 7 assists a game then the Warriors have something cooking. That means the spare parts the Warriors cobbled together- confusing because Kevin Durant leaving was the most obvious secret since Shaq left Orlando- are able to thrive in the offense.
As for that offense. We’ll see how good a coach Steve Kerr is. He knows what Curry can do but he has to create actions in which Russell, who isn’t particularly athletic, and is more a streaky distance shooter than a skilled one, can thrive. The Warriors lack size and they also lack offensive skill from the post- Kevan Looney and Willey Cauley Stein are their best bet. While Curry is sensational, and Russell is a good player, and Draymond keeps the ball moving, the Warriors don’t have a hyper talented roster. When Marquese Chriss is a surprise in camp and has the Dubs optimistic, the Warriors have had to scrape the barrel and cross their fingers.
Against the Clippers and opening up Chase Arena, the Warriors are unthinkable underdogs. It seems ridiculous but when you look at what has happened it reaffirms the NBA is about getting better or getting worse. The Clippers added Kawhi Leonard to a suffocating defense. Without Kawhi, the Clippers took the Dubs to 6 games in the playoffs. With Kawhi, they are the frontrunner in the West.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are a matter of debate. Half the league says yes to the playoffs, the other half says hell no, What everyone, outside of bitter Michael J., agrees on is that Steph Curry is a Hall of Famer right now. He is a top-5 MVP candidate in 2020. He’ll revisit Kobe 2006, as far as numbers go. (Bryant in 2005-06 had (21) 40+ games and (6) 50+ games, including his 81 point game against the Raptors. He averaged 35 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists with an offensive rating of 114 and PER of 28.). Curry’s usage rate will probably be higher than his career best of 32.6.
The question that looms large for the Warriors is can Curry do it physically? Can he push himself in order to keep the Warriors afloat, if Klay returns, or if he doesn’t. The Warriors need Steph. This is his show, this San Francisco version of Strength by Numbers.
The Strength is there. The numbers not so much.