It’s the NBA playoffs and everything is amped up. The good and the bad. The weak and the strong. The surging and the slumping. We are going to hear everything we need to hear about every morsel.
Since the second-round series between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets is the sexiest thing on the schedule, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear some people are actually worried about Stephen Curry.
The Warriors are leading the series 2-1 heading to Game 4 on Monday in Houston and Curry has not played up to par. So what? Some people are flipping out, like he’s is danger of turning into Frank Ntilikina.
“I think Steph has a good balance of beating himself up and just moving on with life,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said Sunday. “And I think that’s important. It’s part of the reason he’s the shooter that he is. I think if you talk to anyone who plays basketball, the toughest thing is to miss shots and keep shooting.
“Your confidence wavers, you start to think — Steph will miss four in a row and then heat-check the fifth one. Like from 35 feet. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it [works] for him. So I know he don’t make too much off it. As a competitor I know he’s pissed with himself and I think that will bode well for us. Probably it’s going to lead to some aggressiveness, and we like when he’s aggressive so I think he’ll be fine.”
Here’s why people are freaking out. It took the Rockets until overtime to pull off their 126-121 win in Game 3. Remember, the game was in Houston and if there’s one thing you eventually learn about the NBA is home floor does matter.
Thing is, Warriors fans believe they’d be up 3-0 in the series if Curry hadn’t blown a fuse. He scored only 17 points in nearly 45 minutes. He shot 7-of-23 in the field.
“I’ve just gotta make those,” Curry said. “If I’m out there playing, gotta produce. And it just didn’t happen tonight.”
And incredibly, he missed an uncontested jam with 19.2 seconds remaining in OT that left you thinking some alien had taken over his body.
“I was feeling pretty good, had a nice head of steam,” Curry said. “Probably a little bit of frustration, too, with the way the rest of the night went. But not my finest moment.”
What’s lost in the chit-chat over the last 48 hours is the not-so-small detail that Curry dislocated the middle finger on his left hand early in Game 2. Curry says it doesn’t bother him, but if you’ve ever had that happen to you, you understand there is some degree of pain and throbbing that requires an occasional Advil. You know it’s there.
And it’s very possible having that finger and his ring finger tapped together alters the way the ball feels in his hand. If he’s not feeling it (the ball), he’s likely not feeling it (the vibe).
Here are the hard numbers: In the first three games he is 18-of-52 from the field and 8-of-32 from three-point range. Granted, these are not Curryesque numbers. But maybe we not getting primetime Curry, either.
But hey, did anyone notice that Klay Thompson only scored 16 points in 46 minutes? No one is bitching about his play.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he expects Curry to get things going tonight.
“He’s just really, really competitive and he gets locked in, and he gets a little bit angry,” Kerr said. “And he comes out with a lot of focus and a lot of fight, so that’s what we’re expecting.”
The outspoken Green has an opinion about it, too, saying Curry doesn’t need to be pumped up.
“I think at times you do,” Green said. “And at times you just kind of feel it. Like you can feel when someone needs you, and you can just kind of feel like, ‘He got it,’ Like who’s not saying anything? … If you’re asking me if you say something now, I don’t think so.”
Said Kerr: “We’ve known each other for so long now it’s not like, ‘Hey, come to my office.’ or ‘I want to meet you. We just chat. We just chat in passing. There’s nothing planned, but my job as a coach is to help the players succeed, give them a little idea what they can do to maybe make an impact in one area or another. So those conversations happen all the time.”
Then again, if the Warriors didn’t have Kevin Durant on their side they might not be feeling so confident about the situation. Durant is averaging 35.6 points in the playoffs and is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor.
Over the last month, Kerr has said a number of times that Durant, who scored 46 in Game 3 after closing out the Los Angeles Clippers with a 50-point game, is the best basketball player in the world.
“I don’t really understand what he’s doing right now either,” Green said. “It’s pretty amazing, obviously, for us to have that option. Just kind of give somebody the ball and get the hell out of the way. It’s definitely beneficial for us, so for him to take over the game like he did in the third quarter, there’s not much a defense can do.”