300: The Steph Curry Bailout Plan
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Staff Writer | 4:22 AM ET
OAKLAND, Calif. — After letting garbage time become crunch time, the Golden State Warriors closed out the Orlando Magic 119-113 for their NBA-record 45th consecutive regular-season home victory. This achievement brings a bifurcated response: There’s an acknowledgement of the incredible accomplishment, then a nod to the issues it’s overshadowing.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr summarized Golden State’s recent run with, “Steph is bailing us out an awful lot.” Monday night was illustrative of that issue, plus a reminder that there are worse bailout plans. As Golden State trundled along sans Andre Iguodala and with an ailing Draymond Green, Curry was a brilliant bulwark against failure. He scored 41 points, claimed 13 boards and hit seven 3-pointers, one of which was his 300th of the season. Curry dropped that one from 28 feet away, after torturing Ersan Ilyasova with seven crossovers.
Of the benchmark, Curry said, “It’s special and it’s never been done before in history.” He later called the accomplishment “surreal,” which it certainly is, especially since it’s early March. For comparison’s sake, Steph’s father, Dell — himself a 3-point sniper — needed seven seasons to reach 300 career 3s made.
Not since Leonidas has a man with “300” led warriors so impressively. Since the All-Star break, Golden State has needed spectacular Curry performances to pull out wins. Thankfully for the Warriors, “spectacular” is his default mode, especially of late. During this stretch, Curry has averaged 35.7 points in 34.9 minutes on 69.7 percent shooting — numbers that shouldn’t be possible.
If Curry weren’t trending impossible, the Warriors would look vulnerable. Though the Warriors have an 8-2 record since the break, they’re grinding out these wins with a lukewarm +1.4 point differential. Even worse: They got blown out by the Lakers of Los Angeles.
Kerr cites defensive slippage as a major issue. After his “Steph is bailing us out an awful lot” comment, Kerr continued: “But we can’t count on that. We can’t rely on that. We need to get back to being the best defensive team in the league, which we were a year ago, which we’re not right now anywhere close to.”
Festus Ezeli‘s absence might account for some of this, but there’s likely another explanation: Unlike last year, this Golden State knows it can win without maximum effort. This iteration might be more inclined to pace themselves in a regular-season game.
There’s also the turnover issue, a pet peeve of Kerr’s. “Some are going to happen,” Kerr said of his team’s 24 giveaways on Tuesday night. “But I could rattle off 10, easy, that were just inexcusable. That’s kind of our weakness, is that sometimes the game comes too easy for our guys and they just think they can do anything; and we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of skill, and what we have to get back to is just simple, simple, simple, and that’s good enough. The simple leads to the spectacular.”
“The simple leads to the spectacular.” If Golden State is indeed in a minifunk, perhaps that adage can lead the way. It’s difficult to know whether the Warriors will absorb that motto until they absolutely must. Their 3-point shooting represents a larger margin for error than anyone else boasts. You could see that massive margin’s representation when Klay Thompson hit a dagger 3-pointer after Curry, and subsequently Green, lost the ball in his general direction. It’s easy to get complacent when your worst offensive plays end in three points.
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