So much for Stephen Curry’s foot injury derailing the second half MVP surge we all saw coming from the moment he started torching the Spurs on Friday night. Curry scored 32 points (11-of-18, 5-of-9 on threes) and assisted on eight other Warriors baskets in a 114-107 win in Washington, D.C., but that only scratches the surface.
It’s hard to decide which was prettier or more impressive.
1. Curry goes between his legs to the left, behind-the-back dribble to his right, crossover left, dribbles with his left hand until Speights departs, makes a hard cut left, stops and drills a three with an exceptionally quick release. (Exhale.)
2. Curry goes behind his back (notice a theme?) on Ramon Sessions and races past him. Kevin Seraphin and the surprisingly pesky Garrett Temple converge, and Curry floats a teardrop over both.
As we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last three seasons, Curry left an entire arena shaking their heads thousands of miles away from home. He also kept the Warriors from falling way behind after a lousy start to this game, with 13 points and four assists in the first quarter. Golden State would eventually pull ahead and take a 30-28 lead at the end of the quarter.
The game would stay close throughout, as both teams spent the game making difficult shots and mistakes. The Warriors missed a month’s worth of layups. The Wizards turned the ball over 18 times … in the first half! (They’d finish with 26 for the game.) The Warriors let Marcin Gortat run past them for several dunks and layups in transition, and by the fourth quarter Gortat and Andrew Bogut weren’t in the game.
Both teams went small, and the Warriors finished on top. It wasn’t just Curry, as Andre Iguodala earned his game-leading plus/minus of +19 with an all-around game that gave the Warriors exactly what they needed at all times (except those two free throws he missed late in the game). David Lee had 10 of the Warriors’ 29 rebounds in just 18 minutes. Shaun Livingston provided 14 strong minutes. Speights was on fire with the jumper, until he suddenly wasn’t.
Despite grabbing 16 fewer rebounds than the home team and allowing the Wizards to shoot 53% from the floor, Golden State outplayed Washington. The only thing that kept the Wizards from becoming the latest team to lose by double-digits to the Warriors was Paul Pierce, who scored 25 points and taught Harrison Barnes a few lessons.
— “He’s been on a roll since the All-Star break,” said Iguodala, who described Curry’s progress over the last two seasons to CSN Bay Area’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude. “Time, possession, situations, when to let the ball go, when to pass it. He’s coming into his own. He’s peaking in his career and he’s going to go down as one of the best.”
— Curry had no turnovers, although he got lucky a couple times when the ball got away and was recovered by a teammate. John Wall had no such luck, as he committed eight turnovers.
— Is anyone better at using the behind-the-back dribble as a weapon in the NBA right now? How about the behind-the-back pass? It seems like half the dimes to Barnes and Speights come when Curry runs one direction and flips a no-look beauty to either player.
— Bogut somehow had no blocked shots and just two rebounds in 20 minutes.
— Draymond Green got in foul trouble early, then ended up with a nice game. His reverse layup around Gortat was impressive, he hit a couple open jumpers and came through with some important defensive rebounds late, and he would’ve had two incredible steals if he didn’t step on the baseline. He also made some fantastic “extra” passes to Barnes and Iguodala for fourth quarter jumpers.
— Klay Thompson wasn’t the same player offensively that we saw in Indianapolis, but he had five steals. He was the only Warrior who seemed a little careless with the ball, committing three of the team’s nine turnovers. However, while Curry defended Wall the majority of the time, Thompson gave Curry a break during sections of this game.
— I wonder if anyone will tease Barnes for that sequence when Pierce went iso and hit a shot over him, then blocked his shot at the other end. Bob Fitzgerald marveled at Pierce, 37, doing so much damage against “one of the best athletes on the Warriors,” as the teams headed to their benches and Ron Adams admonished Barnes (probably for his subpar closeout on Pierce). Barnes may be an outstanding athlete, but footwork, instincts and hoops IQ — especially when those characteristics are displayed by a future Hall-of-Famer — will just about always trump speed and hops.
— Pierce banged knees at the end of this game and acted as if he was going to die. No surprise there.
Pierce expects to play tomorrow in Minnesota. “Can’t break steel,” he says. OK.
— Seraphin ate the Warriors’ lunch for a while there. The Warriors are fantastic at playing passing lanes, switching pick-and-rolls, and protecting the rim (when Bogut is in and engaged), but they can be beaten by big guys with good footwork and touch. Yes, this will be something to watch when they go against Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies.
— Here’s my prediction for how this game would turn out, from my Q&A with ESPN True Hoop’s Wizards blog Truth About It:
Bad news for the Wizards: Golden State will come in with some motivation after Sunday’s loss, plus Curry and Thompson take those “best backcourt in the NBA” debates seriously (that point is moot if Bradley Beal doesn’t play, of course).
Good news for the Wizards: The Warriors have looked a little off in their last five road games against Eastern Conference teams, and they’ve lost two games in a row a couple times this season. That doesn’t seem like a lot—but with a total of just 10 defeats, those two-game losing skids are noticeable.
If Curry plays (and I think he will), I don’t see the Warriors losing to a Washington squad that hasn’t beaten a winning team in five weeks. But it could be fairly close, based on the Warriors’ recent performances on the other side of the nation.
— I don’t have a GIF or Vine for either of these two plays, but Curry also played the role of closer. The high scoop shot off the glass to put the Warriors up 109-102 was almost as silly as the teardrop, and then he got Wall to foul him on a three attempt. After Curry made three foul shots, the Warriors had a 112-104 lead and a cushion they’d use to cruise to a difficult yet satisfying road win.