Warriors

Don't be fooled -- Curry critical to Warriors' repeat hopes

Don't be fooled -- Curry critical to Warriors' repeat hopes

When the Warriors faced the Rockets on Thursday in Houston, my assigned seat at Toyota Center was next to a scout from another NBA team who was, in his own way, as entertaining as the game itself.

His reactions to Stephen Curry’s performance were priceless. This scout, whose name and team won’t be mentioned here was, to put it mildly, consistently amazed.

He was cursing in low tones. Shaking his head. Whistling. Throwing out a “wow” and a “whoa” there. Resorting to “Are you (expletive) kidding me?’ It was as if this scout were observing the two-MVP go to work for the first time.

Sitting inches away, I imagined the scout reached a conclusion that I reached, oh, years ago: If the Warriors are chasing a championship and a healthy Curry is on the floor, any effort to stop them is a fool’s errand.

That’s how it has been since Curry returned to the Warriors lineup, the latest example coming Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Curry dominated a 121-105 destruction of the Clippers, scoring 45 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. With 4:14 remaining in the third quarter he had 43 points on 17 shots while his teammates had 45 on 55.

Curry had to perform. He had to show up. He had to carry the burden. And he did.

“The whole game, other than Steph’s performance, was a pretty bad basketball game all around,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Los Angeles.

Curry was highly efficient and on target when none of his teammates could find any offense. His 45 points were more than the Warriors next four scorers combined.

Kevin Durant, who held it down while Curry was out for 11 games, was unavailable. And Klay Thompson was ice-cold, 4-of-16 from the field. Thank heavens there was Curry.

“Oh, I needed it, you saw the way I was shooting. I was short, left, right, every which way,” Thompson said. “But I stuck with it. But when you have a guy like Steph Curry who has your back, you can have a few off nights like that.”

With the Warriors going 9-2 and Durant playing at MVP level, the idea entered the minds of some around the NBA that the Warriors are so good and so deep that they could win a championship even without Curry. And maybe they can.

But is it really wise to bet that way?

The Warriors winning nine of 11 in the regular season is terrific. It’s not particularly mind-blowing, though, when only two of those opponents are appear to be locks for the postseason.

But winning 16 games in the postseason, when the stakes get higher and the opponents more difficult, is an exponentially bigger challenge.

The postseason is where teams get increasingly familiar with an opponent. It’s where shortcomings get highlighted and exploited. It’s safe to assume the Warriors without Curry would have exploitable shortcomings. If nothing else, they’d be easier to defend.

During the 11 games when Curry was out, the Warriors averaged 105.3 points per game.

In the four games since Curry rejoined the team, beginning Dec. 30, the Warriors averaging 127.8 points -- and that’s with Durant missing two of the games.

Curry during those games is averaging 36 points on 58.4-percent shooting, including 53.8 percent beyond the arc. He has entered a zone few ever really experience.

“There’s no thought process,” he said. “But you know when your shot is feeling better than other nights, just play and have fun.”

No player in the league is better than Curry at covering his team’s shortcomings.

Can the Warriors win it all without him? They might believe it. They have to believe it. But they surely don’t want to try.

We doubt they can do it. And we’d bet that unnamed scout feels the same way.

Spurs star Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely

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AP

Spurs star Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely

NEW YORK — The San Antonio Spurs say Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely as he continues his recovery from a leg injury.

Leonard has played in just nine games after missing the beginning of the season because of right quadriceps tendinopathy. He also was sidelined briefly because of a shoulder injury.

Spurs general manager RC Buford said Wednesday that Leonard has made significant progress in his recovery but "this is the best approach for the next steps in his return to play."

The All-Star forward is averaging 16.2 points this season for the Spurs, who play the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Gameday: Look for Curry to make statement against rising Bulls point guard

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USATSI

Gameday: Look for Curry to make statement against rising Bulls point guard

The Warriors will be without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, when they aim to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins Wednesday as they face the improving Chicago Bulls at United Center.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 4 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 5:05.

In seeking their 14th straight road win, the Warriors (36-9) will be confronting quite a different herd of Bulls than the team they crushed 143-94 two months ago in Oakland. Neither Kevin Durant nor Green was available in that rout, which that was the highest point total allowed by the Bulls since November 1990.

After a 3-20 start, the Bulls (17-27) righted themselves with a seven-game win streak in December and have won 14 of their last 21. The offense has steadily improved, averaging 94.5 points in October/November to 112.0 in January.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 8

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Kris Dunn: Several factors are responsible for the rise of the Bulls, but none may be more important than the play of Dunn, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft. Acquired in the June 2017 trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Dunn is the engine of a Chicago offense that since Dec. 6 has operated at the fifth-fastest pace in the NBA. He averaged 12.0 points and 8.4 assists over the last five games. Curry missed most of December but has been playing well since returning. He loves the challenge of a rising point guard. He’ll be out to make a statement.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Draymond Green (R shoulder soreness) and F Andre Iguodala (L calf contusion) are listed as out.

Bulls: G Cameron Payne (R foot surgery) is listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2.

Bulls: 5-5.

GAME OFFICIALS

Ron Garretson (crew chief), Mark Ayotte, Scott Twardoski

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first of two meetings this season, 143-94, on Nov. 24 in Oakland. The teams split the series last season, each winning on its own floor. The Warriors have won six of the last nine meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

KD UNLEASHED: Since returning Jan. 10, after a three-game absence, Durant has been on a tear, averaging 30.8 points on 62.5-percent shooting, including 60 percent from beyond the arc. Most teams don’t have anyone that matches up with him, and the Bulls certainly don’t. The closest is Lauri Markkanen, and though he has the length (7 feet), he has no chance of slowing Durant. All indications point to another big night.

THE BOMBERS: Chicago has made at least 10 3-pointers in each of its last nine home games, the longest such streak in franchise history. They’ve made at least 15 treys in each of the last three games. Rookie forward Markkanen drilled his 100th career triple in his 41st game, the fastest rate in league history. He averaged 23.0 points over his last three games, making 15 3-pointers in the process. With Green out, the Warriors will give him a variety of looks, with one of them being Durant.

WARRIORS DEPTH: The absence of Green and Iguodala will hurt the Warriors, who are playing their fourth game in six nights. Jordan Bell will start for Green, but the Warriors will have to alter their offense -- Green leads team in assists -- while patching together a defense that will be without two players that make an impact on that end. Omri Casspi, Kevon Looney and Pat McCaw will have opportunities.