Stephen Curry had a hell of a week. First, he went for 38 points on 20 shots in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, which also featured him trying to fight Roy Hibbert, who outweighs him by 95 pounds and outheights him by a foot. Then he scored 54 in a loss to the Knicks. Between those two games, he shot 18 of 23 from three-point range, padding his already astronomical percentage from beyond the arc to a ridiculous 44.7%. What we as spectators witnessed was an NBA player announcing himself as a titan to the world at large — if not a star, than at least a planet, with a significant and persuasive gravitational pull.
Because that’s the thing about Curry right now — not only is he playing tremendous basketball, but he’s doing it in a way that seems both unsustainable and unstoppable. It’s unsustainable because you can’t consistently make 18 of 23 three-point shots, no matter how pure your stroke is, particularly when you rarely set your feet to shoot and tend to play offense like a jackrabbit, bounding from spot to spot before firing away again. It’s unstoppable for the same reasons: most players in this league, no matter hot they get, will never shoot 18 of 23 from beyond the arc in a two-game span, even if nobody bothers to cover them. And make no mistakes, players are trying to cover Curry; it’s just that, when a player can shoot on the fly like he can, and he can run, too, taking the ball up the court in a negligible few seconds, there’s not much you can do.
However, you’ll notice something else about those two games: the Warriors lost both. Despite Curry’s heroics, Golden State’s defense is still a dreary nightmare — they gave up 108 points to the PACERS — and, unlike the Rockets, their offense isn’t quite good enough to make up for it. The Warriors are on a long-due skid, and it’s one that will likely carry over into the playoffs, where even Stephen Curry won’t be good enough to get them through a brutal Western Conference bracket.
That being said, make room for Curry’s name in the league’s point-guard conversation. Chris Paul and Tony Parker have the top two spots locked up, but Curry’s right in the running, alongside Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and Jrue Holiday, for third place.
Speaking of the Pacers, their 108 points against Golden State might have more to do with how bad the Warriors’ defense is, but it also shows a certain trend for Indiana. The league’s best defense — they’re surrendering only 98.9 points per 100 possessions, a fantastic number — has helped Indiana go 18-9 in 2013, and the offense, which recently added former #1 option Danny Granger back into the mix, has finally started to improve, managing to score over 100 in four of its last six games. More importantly, the Pacers have a late-game option in Paul George, which is a must for any team hoping to succeed in the playoffs. Throw in the intimidation factor that they gained after Hibbert and co. brawled with the Warriors, and the playoff future starts to look bright in Indiana. Granger has been horrid so far, but he’s only played in three games; if he can get back to even a decent fraction of his past effectiveness, and George continues to score, not only might the Pacers be the only team able to beat the Heat — the Heat might be the only team able to beat the Pacers.
CLEVELAND. Most talk about the sports in Ohio’s most hilarious city tends to revolve around how much God must hate the mistake on the lake to curse them with teams so terrible. That’s changed with the world-burning destruction tour that is Kyrie Irving’s 2013, but when Irving sat out the last few games for the Cavs due to minor ailments, it seemed like we would lapse back into CleveLOLand again for a little bit. Except: it didn’t happen. Instead, the Cavs reeled off two straight wins sans Irving, both featuring 100-point offensive performances and one of those against the Bulls, the East’s second-best defense statistically. Although he’s scoring at a low efficiency rate for a big, second-year power forward Tristan Thompson has put together an above-average season that’s seen him grow into a nightly double-double threat and one of the league’s better rebounders, particularly on the all-important offensive boards. Meanwhile, Dion Waiters, who started off his rookie season shooting like he was hallucinating baskets, has put together three straight in which he’s scoring 24.7 points per game on dynamite 57% shooting, including 44.7% from three. If he can maintain anything near that level of efficiency when Irving returns, it would be a huge boon for the Cavs.
Joakim Noah, man. Thursday against the 76ers, Noah went for a brain-evaporating 23 points, 21 rebounds, and 11 blocks, only the fourth guy in the last 25 years to record a 20-20-10 game. Noah might be the league’s most well rounded big, and he’s only made better by Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategies — dude can score, pass, rebound, and defend in a variety of situations, and he’s also grown into a hyper-intelligent energy guy. It’s worth emphasizing how improbably the Bulls’ 2012-13 season has been: they’ve gone 33-25 without a single minute from their best player. That’s unbelievable, and a large reason why it happened is Noah. A secondary, and incredibly surprising reason is the effectiveness of Nate Robinson, the historic malcontent who has finally turned into a not-insufferable asset for the Bulls. Again, credit due to Thibodeau, but either way, Noah (and Robinson) have been huge for Chicago.
OK, real talk for a second: just because the dunks that LeBron casually peels off in pregame warmups would win any dunk contest ever, doesn’t mean he now has to compete in the dunk contest. That’s the whole point: as long as we’re getting these remarkable human-fireworks displays at any time, who cares? LeBron has threatened to stop the pre-game dunks because of the whining from idiots, and that would be a travesty on par with, say, Jose Canseco shutting down his Twitter. If you all make LeBron stop dunking like this, I will hunt you down and force to watch YouTube videos of fathers helping their babies to dunk on toy hoops, because that’s all you deserve.
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