Something special was cooking in the first quarter, courtesy of the one only Chef in the NBA.
Granted, this was against a team notorious for its defensive struggles. With garbage time eliminated, the Indiana Pacers have been allowing 120.5 points per 100 possessions from opponents (26th), 102.1 points per 100 possessions in the half court (24th), and 136.0 points per 100 possessions in transition (28th), per Cleaning The Glass. If there was any team that was prone to being served up on a silver platter for a Steph Curry explosion, it was the Pacers.
Yet despite the aforementioned context, a Curry flurry never ceases to amaze — especially from a soon-to-be 36-year-old who still has what it takes to set the basketball world ablaze. He definitely set the Pacers’ defense ablaze tonight by drilling his first seven attempts from three-point range, on his way to a 29-point first half on an incredible 126.9% True Shooting.
That pace was always going to be impossible to maintain. As expected, Curry’s production dropped off in the second half, but the final numbers are still a sight to behold: 42 points on 15-of-22 shooting (4-of-6 on twos, 11-of-16 on threes). His out-of-this-world True Shooting percentage after the first half predictably cratered — to a still-stratospheric 91.8%.
Even though my schtick as a writer is focusing on the nuances and the little details that may fly above most people’s heads — and trying my best to break it down into digestible nuggets for everyone to consume and understand — I find myself oooh-ing and ahhh-ing like every fan at all the marvelous occurrences that accompany the all-time greats in this league. I’ve seen this kind of shot from Curry so many times throughout his career, but I still shake my head in wondrous awe every time it happens:
Also, when this happens — despite the double team he faced from nearly 30 feet out:
The brilliance of Curry from long distance can be summarized by many records: his 3,615 career threes that is slowly leaving everyone else behind in the dust; the number of times he has made at least eight threes in a game and how it dwarfs the next three players on the list — even if you combine their numbers:
The number of times he’s made at least nine threes — and how it dwarfs the next four people on the list combined:
And the number of times he’s made at least 11 threes — and how it dwarfs everyone else on the list combined:
All of which cements Curry as the undisputed greatest shooter of all time — and one of the greatest players to have ever touched a basketball. But I’m preaching to the choir here; it’s a sentiment that’s still controversial in some circles for reasons that are both petty and faulty.
It’s undeniable what Curry has done for the Golden State Warriors and how much legwork he has performed to lift this franchise to previously unreachable heights. He has had help, of course, just like every franchise player in NBA history; Draymond Green has been there every step of the way to help unleash Curry’s full potential, relieve the pressure he gets from defenses on a near nightly basis, and act as the fulcrum of the defense to disguise his shortcomings on that end of the floor.
It’s no coincidence that ever since Green returned from suspension on January 15, Curry has been averaging 32.7 points on 60.2% shooting on twos, 47.7% on threes, 97.0% on free throws, and 69.4% True Shooting. In comparison, the 16 games that Green was out after being suspended for his hit on Jusuf Nurkić: 23.3 points on 47.1% on twos, 36.0% on threes, 89.9% on free throws, and 56.0% True Shooting.
Every Batman needs a Robin, but Green happens to be a unique one — a non-scoring threat whose name on the scouting report doesn’t inspire fear from opponents, at least from a scoring and shooting standpoint.
Instead of trying to generate fear himself, Green actively seeks to weaponize the fear that Curry creates on the court — which makes him the perfect partner for Curry on offense:
In a recent stretch of high-volume inverted ballscreens, Green uses that fact to Curry’s advantage by handing it off to him instead of Curry setting the screen, which confuses the Pacers’ coverage. Expecting a Curry screen to occur, TJ McConnell ends up ducking under the screen — a death sentence against the best three-point shooter of all time.
Those handoffs Green executes can also turn into a “Keep” — a fake handoff that freezes Green’s defender with a bout of confusion, often due to a conundrum of choice: Do I step up to crowd Curry around the handoff, or do I stay home to prevent a short-roll situation?
If the screener’s defender chooses the former, this happens:
If he chooses the latter, this happens:
Which is why you can’t blame them for the confusion — and why Green has been so keen to capitalize on it with keepers:
Curry’s individual greatness, having the perfect partner in crime in Green, the resurgence of sturdy wing play, and the effort and tenacity of the youth is providing a sliver of hope for this team that is still one game below .500 and is knocking on the door of the Play-In Tournament. The fact that the team decided to stand pat as the trade deadline passed by — the only move being shedding Cory Joseph to free up a roster spot and save $11 million in taxes — is a declaration of their continuing faith in all of the above.
Practicality dictates that any huge move that will shift the identity of this team be made in the offseason. Sentiment invokes the feeling that this core has what it needs to turn the season around, absurd and near impossible as it may seem.
But with a performance like this from Curry, it’s hard to shed away the latter and easy to forget the former.