There were times back in the day, hell, even just a season ago, when the Golden State Warriors would struggle and lose a basketball game because the other team simply touted the best player on the floor.
Whether it be LeBron James or Kevin Durant of last season, or the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Tim Duncan of the many seasons before, many times a basketball contest would cease to become one because a single person had the talent, skill, and assassin's blood to make the final decision. On Sunday night, the world's greatest current basketball player resides in Oakland, and made that decision all by himself against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Stephen Curry poured in 39 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in the 136-111 victory showcase.
The first half went about the same as the previous games: sloppy, bursts of greatness, and a shot of small ball to push this team ahead just enough by halftime. Then the third quarter happened and right when Lillard and the Blazers tried to put together one more run in a game that featured high-level shotmaking against some lax defense, Curry removed all doubt as to the NBA's best in one of the more fun duels of the season.
Damian Lillard's first response to the question about the duel after the game was nondescript: "He wanted his team to win the game and I wanted my team to win the game. I think there for a second, we went at it for a little bit."
Yet when asked again about Steph, Lillard's tone changed.
"He's the MVP of our league," Lillard said, sounding mildly annoyed. "Pretty sure he's going to be the MVP again this season. You get to matchup with a guy like that, you go back and forth. He's not going to back down. I'm for damn sure not going to back down. It turned into what it was, but I don't think it was a me against you type of thing. The better players on the team gotta step up."
Lillard spent most of the postgame interview giving the Warriors credit but pushed again on the Curry subject -- there was a change in tone where he just refused to acknowledge this was a mano a mano contest. It wasn't a battle he lost, given that he himself also poured in 38 points. Instead, it was yet another reminder that these Golden State Warriors don't lose many games, and they simply don't lose any at all when the best player on the floor exerts his will the way Curry did.
"It's always a show," said Festus Ezeli, who was forced to watch from the sidelines for 31 games due to a left knee injury. "It's a point guard league right now."
Curry did over and over again, to the rim, behind the arc, and all around the Blazers' entire team -- a Blazers team, mind you, that played this like a postseason game, dominating the boards and nailing threes all over the place to start.
The National Basketball Association is a point guard league right now, and for the foreseeable future. For the Golden State Warriors, they are blessed to have the best point guard, and best player in the league manning the controls for the present.
Leftover Draymond Green Observations
1. Does he have the quickest second jump in the NBA? The long wingspan combined with his penchant for moving forward instead of backwards after a shot allows him to just bulldoze his way into points.
2. Speaking of bulldoze, Draymond's post move(s) are fascinating. He simply gets the ball and there's no trick or flash to them. He simply moves his shoulder into the opposing player and rises through them into a small floater. More often than not, it goes in. It isn't pretty but it is damn sure effective.
3. Besides Andre Iguodala, Green has some of the best anticipation on the team. He is able to snuff out a pick-and-roll quicker than anyone considering how he can backtrack against guards while keeping an arm's length against his big man. On the flip side, he also protects the rim on the weakside like a true big man, and better than most.
4. Oh, and 22-10-10 isn't so bad, either.
5. Of those 10 assists, Green has a plethora of arm angles on his passes. Like a pitcher, he gets it there no matter what. He hit Steph in the opposite corner early in the game off a post-up where he threw it over his own head. Later in the game, he whipped one from his hip pocket as Klay Thompson curled from the key to the opposite side to the bucket.
6. Steve Kerr went to Dray at the center position early with 7 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. As the Warriors gun for the record and head into the postseason, get ready for tons of small ball lineups. And unfortunately for the rest of the NBA, it only gets scarier from here.