- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry didn’t allow himself to wallow in self-pity or shake his head in frustration on the night of the worst shooting performance of his career. He smiled wide at the idea that he could go 2-for-16 and the Golden State Warriors could still find a way to squeak out a 106-105 win over the Toronto Raptors, as they did on Sunday night.
Did Curry ever think he could shoot that poorly from the field and his team could still win this season?
“Well, I never thought I’d go 2-of-16,” Curry said with a grin. “So I never even thought about that.”
Though Curry would love to forget the way he shot, he took solace in the fact that his teammates rallied around him to the point where the Warriors could still pick up the kind of victory that would have eluded them earlier in the season. Curry’s 2-for-16 outing was the worst performance in his career in a game when he had a minimum of five shot attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, but the win, on a night when he couldn’t find any rhythm against Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, speaks to the growth the Warriors feel they’ve taken over the first two weeks of the season.
“It means obviously we’re moving in the right direction,” Curry said. “My offense, I expect it to be there every night. And obviously, with how teams are defending night to night, being able to figure that out, but in terms of us just having confidence across the board no matter who’s out there on the floor, I think where we’re at right now in terms of guys stepping up, us staying within ourselves, finding different ways to execute on that end of the floor. But we don’t win a game like this … without our defense, taking strides in the right direction. We all understood that tonight and definitely that won us the game with how ugly that second half was on the offensive end.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed that sentiment — believing that his young team was rallying around the idea that its defense was going to have to serve as the engine of the team even more than it did during the past few championship seasons, given the lack of superstar power surrounding Curry.
“You guys heard me the first day of training camp,” Kerr said. “I talked about our defense and that we have to be a defensive-minded team — and that was the point. That this is not the team from three years ago with KD [Kevin Durant] and Klay [Thompson] and all these different offensive weapons. This is a more traditional NBA team.”
Despite his struggles, Curry still found a way to chip in with nine rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. His presence allowed his teammates to thrive — as evidenced in part by the 46 bench points the Warriors amassed. But Kerr’s proclamation prior to the season about defense has resonated with a roster that got an emotional boost from seeing that it could win even when its superstar wasn’t playing up to his usual high level.
“I think we have enough talent, enough weapons to overcome a bad shooting performance,” Kerr said. “So I don’t even know that I need to say anything. If it happens, these guys all look at the box score, they know what’s going on. And they know by this time that the key to our team is our defense. And we were very good defensively tonight again. So we’re absolutely heading in a good direction.”
The question that will hover over Curry and the Warriors throughout the season is whether his body will be able to withstand the type of punishing defense that he sees every night. The Raptors, like so many others on the Warriors’ schedule, threw body after body at Curry and forced him into many contested looks. As Kerr looks for ways to get his star more space, he does so knowing that Curry won’t let his performance Sunday get in his head at all.
“I’ve shot 0-for-11 one time and 1-for-10 and all everywhere in between,” Curry said. “So mostly it’s just keep shooting, and eventually it will find its way. I think you kind of have to stay engaged on the other parts of the game, obviously defensively, trying to get rebounds, be a decoy sometimes if necessary. There’s a lot of different ways that you can still be impactful if you’re not shooting, but at the end of the day, just keep shooting. I’m not worried about that. At all.”
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