Stephen Curry goes for 40, the Golden State Warriors at the top of the league: we’re talking 2016 or so, right? No, try 2021.
After many fans left the Warriors era to ponder possible dynasties from LeBron James and the Lakers or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, Golden State is back early this season behind Curry’s scoring.
On Thursday night, Curry had nine 3-pointers and 40 points as the Warriors improved to a 13-2 best in the league with a 104-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors entered the fourth quarter trailing 13. No problem for Curry, who had 20 points during that period and helped his team beat Cleveland 36-8 to win.
Beginning around 2015 or ’16, Curry, already a great 3-point shooter, seemed to nearly break the game with a deluge of 3s, many of very, very deep, leading his team to five straight finals, including the most recent championship anno. 2018.
But Curry missed most of 2019-20 with a broken left hand. Although he rebounded last season with an average of 32 points per game, the team did not and missed the playoffs. Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala had left in 2019 and injuries cost Klay Thompson more than two full seasons. The golden years at Golden State seemed over.
But at 33, Curry has completely turned the team around this year.
Jordan Poole’s continued development (17 points per game, 5 more than last season); Draymond Green’s excellent defense, rebounding (eight per game) and passing (eight assists per game); and another solid season of Andrew Wiggins (18 ppg) are all part of the revival. But Curry rightly deserves a huge share of the credit.
In his first 15 games, Curry already has three 40-point tries and a 50-point attempt against Atlanta last week. Thursday-evening was his fourth game with nine 3-pointers. With 29.5 points per game, he leads the race for what would be his third scoring title.
Curry is arguably the best 3-point shooter in the history of the game. Although he has reached his maximum score of nine this year, he has played 22 matches with double digit threes in his career; the next best player is Thompson, with just five.
Curry didn’t flinch at the shot. Early in his career, about a third of his shots came from outside the arc. That rose to 50 percent and eventually 60 percent in its peak years. This season, 65 percent of his shots come from 3, which would be a career high. His 85 three-pointers put him ahead of 20 in the league.
Oh, he also hits 96 percent of his free throws.
Curry is also picky about his shot, in favor of the team. He carefully avoids the most feared shot by statisticians, the long 2, which has a low percentage but without the bonus point the 3 offers.
After a few early seasons where he took about 30 percent of his shots over 16 feet in 2-point area, Curry cut that figure down to about 10 percent of his shots in his peak years. Last season he took just 7 percent of his shots from that region and this season he’s nearly left the long 2 just 3.5 percent of the time.
The sheer number of its threes seems to offset a slightly lower percentage of long range; he’s hitting 42 percent this season, which would be the second lowest mark of his career in a full season and less than the 45 percent he shot at his peak.
It is also possible that the figure is a bit low due to the sample size. If Curry were to sink a few more threes, as it seems, he could really improve this season. And with Thompson finally back to training after his injury nightmare, the team could get even better soon.