Curry has fingerprints all over Warriors' success 

click to enlarge By his standards, Warriors star Stephen Curry has had two rather ordinary games in the playoffs, but he made those around him better. - MARCIO JOE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Joe Sanchez/AP
  • By his standards, Warriors star Stephen Curry has had two rather ordinary games in the playoffs, but he made those around him better.
Just how high has Warriors point guard Stephen Curry raised the bar for himself this year?

So high that, despite averaging 28.0 points, 5.5 assists and 48 percent from the field against the New Orleans Pelicans in his first two postseason games, and notching a pair of mostly straight-forward victories, some of the discussion ahead of Game 3 in New Orleans tonight focused on the triggerman’s most minute deviations from the mean amid a Most Valuable Player-worthy season.

The evidence after a tiny two-game sample: Nine 3-pointers and three free throws missed in Game 1; five turnovers, only one free-throw attempt and 17 scoreless minutes to close out Game 2 on Monday. Of course, pointing to those numbers is likely as much a cause of the Warriors’ historic 67-win season, the best in the NBA in nearly a decade, and newly anointed status in Vegas as Western Conference favorites, as it is anything else.

“Well, that’s what makes Steph special — even when he’s not scoring, the defense is chasing him around,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He opens up lanes for everybody else. So when you see Draymond [Green] drive to the rim after catching a pass from Steph, well, there are two guys on Steph on the perimeter, and that’s what opens the floor. Klay [Thompson] got free because, again, they’re shading towards Steph. We run something on the weakside, Klay gets an opening.”

Indeed, those elevated national expectations could have something to do with overanalytical examinations of Curry specifically, or why fans at Oracle Arena seemed to offer an atypical fleeting moment or two of doubt, at the possibility of a third home loss in 44 tries to the likes of Norris Cole and Omer Asik.

Only the Warriors didn’t falter, thanks in large part to Thompson’s 14 fourth-quarter points. And yes, Curry’s dish cueing up center Andrew Bogut’s dunking dagger to run the Warriors lead to 97-86 with 1:01 left. It was the final Warriors’ bucket, speaking directly to his exclamation-point of influence even in a quiet scoring stretch.

“Steph is just as much a threat without the ball as he is with the ball, and that’s what makes him, I think, really unique even among the great players in this league. Without the ball, when you’re that kind of a threat and you sort of bend the defense, then you’re impacting the game every play.”

No doubt, critiquing Curry at all after two victorious games is something of a fool’s errand, even more so considering the Warriors’ collectively disjointed offensive performance at times.

“We didn’t move the ball very well [in Game 2],” Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have to play with pace, and sometimes we get bogged down and try to rely too much on individual play, and I thought we did in the first quarter and half way through the third. Maybe some of that is fatigue, but we had our moments where we moved the ball and looked great and had moments where we didn’t. So we just got to fix that.”

As for Curry not getting to the free-throw line often in Game 2, there does exist one fairly obvious and lengthy possible culprit: Anthony Davis. Not many teams have the luxury of switching a fleet-footed 6-foot-10 shot blocker onto point guards coming off screens, something Davis is highly adept at.

“He’s a really difficult guy to isolate,” Kerr said of Davis’ ability to switch onto guards coming off high screens. “Steph can shoot over anybody and he’ll make some shots over Davis if he gets him in the right position, but our formula is always to move the ball. The more times we move the ball, the more chances for the defense to make a mistake. And I felt like last night we settled a lot for some quick shots.”

Meanwhile, Davis or no Davis, Curry didn’t sound overly concerned about figuring out how to get to the line more often going forward.

“Hopefully I’ll continue to try to find ways to counteract [physical play] and still get to my spots,” Curry said. “But within games, you can’t waste energy and effort worrying about that. You still have to try to make an impact on the game and not rely on refs to bail you out of certain situations. I hope to get calls and we’re going to keep being aggressive, but you can’t really worry about it in games.”

Ultimately, though, Kerr offered perhaps the most important reminder of what really makes his team tick.

“The strength of our team is our defense,” Kerr said. “That’s really what makes us who we are. And then we play off our defense by getting out in transition. So on a night when Steph’s jumper isn’t going, as long we’re defending, we can get out and run.”

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Jack Ross

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