The Golden State Warriors ran away from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and company kept it tight for a half, trading buckets and runs and leads, and trailed by just five with seven minutes to go the third quarter despite shooting just 40 percent from the field, thanks in part to capitalizing off Golden State’s still-lingering penchant for live-ball miscues.
And then, the tumblers lined up and the gears clicked into groove, and it was over. A 21-6 run, in the space of five minutes, with Klay Thompson going nuts, JaVale McGee running rampant and Stephen Curry setting the table. By the end of the third quarter, the lead was 19, and that was that. Even without Kevin Durant, sitting to nurse a bruised left thigh, the Warriors just hit the gas and run away, leaving a good team in the dust in a 24-point win. It’s what they do.
With Thompson sizzling and the second unit swinging, the Warriors had no need for Curry’s services in the final frame, thanks in part to what the chef cooked up through three quarters: 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting, six more free throws as he continues to hunt contact, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals in 30 minutes of work.
The performance was par for the course for the two-time Most Valuable Player, who has quietly — well, as quietly as a two-time MVP playing for the NBA’s best team can do anything, I suppose — put together a fairly monstrous start to the season.
Through 12 games, Curry’s averaging 25.4 points, 6.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals in just 32.5 minutes per game, which would be his lowest workload since his ankle-injury-shortened third season. His 3-point percentage is down — 38.9 percent on 9.4 attempts per game, numbers 98 percent of the NBA would murder to have, but that seem positively pedestrian considering what he’s put up in the past — but he’s getting to the line at the highest rate of his career, and knocking in nearly 94 percent of his freebies. Aside from the occasional forays into the sort of wildness that makes Steve Kerr want to snap clipboards, he’s also turning the ball over on a lower share of his team’s offensive possessions than ever.
Curry leads the NBA in win shares, ranks fifth in Value over Replacement Player, and sits seventh in Player Efficiency Rating, according to Basketball-Reference.com. The Warriors have outscored their opponents by 174 points in his 390 minutes this season, far and away the best plus-minus mark in the league this season, and for an awful lot longer than that if it holds up:
Stephen Curry is plus-174 this season. That’s plus-14.5 per game. Long way to go, but that’d be the best plus-minus mark of the decade. (I’m not going back further than that.)
— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) November 9, 2017
would be best since at LEAST 01 https://t.co/APji9MAhn6
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 9, 2017
In consideration of how consistently and calmly excellent Curry’s been in all phases without putting up any unbelievable individual games — nothing more than the 37-on-17 shots he put up against the Memphis Grizzlies, which, admittedly, is pretty great — Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group asked Warriors forward Draymond Green after Wednesday’s win if he thought his teammate was “peaking.” (He’s not the first one to ask that question, either.)
Green, you’ll be stunned to learn, had a noteworthy response.
“Peaking?” Green immediately responded as soon as he heard the word.
“His numbers are crazy,” Kurtenbach said.
“Are they?” Green replied. “I’ve seen crazier. However, he’s been playing well. But yeah, I’ve seen him do way more. Peaking? That’s just ridiculous to say. God. Advanced numbers? Peaking?”
“I thought it was the best offensive season ever two years ago,” Kurtenbach said.
“Yeah. But peaking, though?” Green continued.
“He’s plus-14 a game,” Kurtenbach said.
“Plus-14. Like, his plus-minus?” Green said. “I think he had the highest plus-minus in a season in NBA history.”
“Yeah, and he’s going to beat it,” Kurtenbach replied.
“All right. ‘Peaking.’ That’s just ridiculous to say, bro,” Green said.
While Kurtenbach’s point is well taken — “Even though he has personally played better, in my opinion, the threat of Curry has never been greater,” he wrote after his presser started to make the rounds — it’s easy to understand why Green would bristle at the suggestion.
I mean, he averaged 30 points, 6.5 assists and five rebounds per game on 50/45/90 shooting splits for a full season two years ago, regularly authoring plays and performances that would’ve represented career-highlight material for most stars, and earned the first unanimous MVP award in NBA history. And, “down year” claims aside, he wasn’t far off that level of production after Durant went down to injury and in last year’s postseason. It’s not that today’s Steph isn’t amazing — it’s that we’ve watched him be almost unbelievable before, and for very long periods of time.
So, no, Draymond’s not buying that this is Steph’s peak. And Curry — who joked, “That means it’s over after this year,” as he took the podium after Green — thinks he’s got room to grow, too.
“I mean, I try to get better every year. Obviously, that’s the mission,” he said. “That’s what we’re all trying to do. Nobody wants to be content in this league. Nobody wants to just be the same player. You use all the experiences you’ve had throughout your career to put that formula together.
“I’m blessed to say I’m healthy. I’ve got great teammates, great organization, great momentum over the summer that I was able to build off of,” he said. “And yeah, I’m feeling pretty good.”
Curry has used his experiences — soaring success, crushing disappointment, sacrifice for the good of the team, rising back to prominence for the same — to reach a position of power, achievement and all-time excellence. Everything that he’s done, and that he’s doing, is about not only remaining at that level, but continuing to rise. It might be hard for us to see how much higher he can go, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel compelled to keep climbing.
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