You would have been shocked if I told you that before the start of last year. Now it’s just your daily dose of salt for the wounds.
And yet there was no disdain for the Raptors on Thursday night. No sadness or anger at defeat.
Thursday was a happy day. Steph Curry was back. Not only was Steph Curry back, but STEPH CURRY was back. I’d say back like he never left, but the truth is, the Curry we saw on Thursday was better than the Curry we saw in the first four games of the season.
There was a lot to take in on Thursday, and apart from the score, it was almost unanimously good. Let’s dig into the most important takeaways from last night’s game.
Steph looked GOOD
Let’s start with the most important takeaway: Curry balled out. It wasn’t his most efficient night (6-16 shooting, 3-12 from deep), but in just 27 minutes he nearly had a triple-double, with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Impressive numbers, but they don’t really do it justice. Curry looked smooth, as though he hadn’t missed 58 straight games. He looked wildly athletic, exploding through double coverage, rising high for rebounds, and generally just looking fast and powerful. His handles and passing and timing were crisp, which are things you don’t expect out of a player returning from a four-month absence. Perhaps the most impressive numbers in his box score were the negatives: He had just one turnover and foul.
Let’s run some highlights, because that’s what we’re all here for.
The greatest show on earth is back, and it was all on display Thursday: The 30-footers, the four-point plays, the behind-the-back dimes, the full-court passes, the contorting layups, and the dancing.
The hand was put to the test - and passed
Just a few minutes into the game, Curry was moving full speed around a screen when he collided with Norman Powell’s hip, and went flying into the air like a motocross rider hitting a jump wrong.
He landed - hands first - with a resounding splat on the hardwood. Curry smiled that patented smile - half amused, half annoyed - and then popped to his feet.
You always wonder if a player will favor their rehabbed body part when they return. Curry wasn’t given that chance. He hit the deck a few times, was bumped around by the Raptors plenty, and certainly didn’t shy away from using his hand to dribble, catch, and pass.
Steph gets sassy
If you thought that Curry had a few more behind-the-back passes than normal, you’re not wrong. Curry was pretty clearly having fun letting everyone know he was healthy. He was whipping passes with his left, catching passes with his left, and all around putting the rehabbed hand on display.
Was that a coincidence? Hell no.
Steph can get sassy with the best of them, and that was emphatically the case on Thursday. He knew millions of people were tuned in to see if his hand was back to normal. Millions of people who had herd about the supposed nerve damage, and questioned his ability.
That was for them.
The Chriss connection
Marquese Chriss has been something of a revelation this season. After having horrendous results his first few years in the league, he’s been a quality contributor for Golden State, even in a lost season with mostly G League players.
How good can he be on a good Warriors team? Much depends on how well he develops chemistry with Curry. So far, so good. They seemed to be on the same page, with good timing, and a strong understanding of where each player was on the floor.
There’s a lot of room for improvement, but a lot of time, as well.
The energy was back
This should surprise absolutely no one, but the Warriors played with a different energy level with their superstar back. The bench bounced up and down with every highlight. The youngsters fought harder for loose balls, and dug deeper on defense. Andrew Wiggins hit the glass stronger.
For one of the first times this year, they looked like a legitimate NBA team, trying hard on every possession, on both ends of the floor, and having mostly good results as well.