Stephen Curry continues to make the special, merely ordinary. Another game, another Curry scoring barrage, this time 34.
Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City Thunder, fast5, NBA, Andrew Wiggins,
As always though, the question is if Curry can get any kind of help from his teammates. And the answer Thursday was just enough, as the Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-97.
The Warriors (33-33) came out with more energy than they showed their last game in New Orleans. But it didn’t show up in the box score, as a Thunder team playing a bench that most diehard NBA fans wouldn’t recognize hung around for the first quarter and a half.
It got as close as four with five minutes left in the half, but a 15-2 run finally broke the game open. Curry was directly responsible for 13 of those points as he had eight points, assisted on one and was used as a fake handoff on the other.
He also put Lu Dort through hell in this game. Dort had three fouls in eight minutes in the first quarter, then picked up his fourth in two minutes in the second.
While Curry struggled with the 3, he racked up points at the rim and the free throw line. And when Dort stopped fouling in the second half, Curry found his long-range stroke and nailed four 3’s in the third quarter.
Curry has scored at least 30 points in seven of his last eight games. And during that span is averaging 34.4 points per game and shooting 43 percent on just below 15 3’s per game.
Curry has taken his game to another level over the last month or so after returning from his bruised tailbone, and one of the main reasons is the 3-ball.
Obviously, he’s been known for his long-distance shooting for his entire career, but he’s been hoisting them at a career high rate since coming back from injury.
He’s putting up 14.5 3’s per game, compare that to the 11.4 attempts he was shooting pre-injury, while actually shooting a better percentage with the increase in volume.
There’s an argument that Curry should be launching even more 3’s even though he leads the NBA in attempts.
It may become a necessity since the team will be using their shortened rotation for the foreseeable future.
Ironically this short-handed roster has fully actualized Curry. It forced Steve Kerr to play Curry with shooters and guys who are going to be more comfortable deferring to him.
No James Wiseman and no Kelly Oubre meant every player on the court with Curry is looking for him first, all while playing with a spaced floor. The downside of course is the lack of bodies, and the heightened importance of tertiary scorers.
Andrew Wiggins has been that secondary scorer and has been in a groove lately and continued to step up when the Warriors need him the most.
Wiggins is averaging 24.8 points the last four games on over 52 percent shooting and has become the go-to scoring threat in the non-Steph minutes.
He’s averaging 18 points per game this year, but that number doesn’t really pass the eye test. He’s had some real clunkers and before these last handful of games still didn’t look comfortable in this Warriors offense.
His tendency to drift has reared its head this year, but if he has truly turned the corner, he’s a natural sidekick to Curry.
Aside from those two, without Oubre, the Warriors are continually searching for that third option.
Against the Pelicans, their third leading scorer was Jordan Poole with nine, Thursday Poole had 14, but the real difference was he was their fifth leading scorer until 24 seconds left in the game.
That’s exactly what’s going to have to happen if the Warriors want to make any kind of noise in the playoffs. Expecting Wiggins or Oubre when he comes back, to score enough alone with Curry to win games is too much to ask.
But if they can get scoring contributions from Poole, Kent Bazemore, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Draymond Green and Mychal Mulder like they did Thursday, and add that to the way Curry is scoring. Then this team turns truly dangerous.
The Warriors get the Thunder again Saturday as they look to take advantage of the lottery-bound team which has lost 19 of their last 20.
With their win and Memphis loss Thursday, Golden State moves into sole position of the 8th spot in the West. That makes their matchup with the Grizzlies on the last day of the regular season that much more important, as the season series is tied 1-1 and whoever wins that game will hold the tiebreaker. That 8th spot would be huge as it would guarantee that one win in the play-in would put the team in the playoffs. … Damion Lee missed his ninth straight game after testing positive for Covid despite getting vaccinated. There’s no timeline for him to come back as Lee experienced a multitude of symptoms. While Kelly Oubre who missed his fifth straight game got some better news as he won’t need surgery on his wrist and will be evaluated in 1-2 weeks.