Warriors

How Steph's NBA record chase has impacted star, Warriors

Warriors

INDIANAPOLIS -- For all his otherworldly talent, his historic on-court exploits, his ability to bring hordes of screaming fans to their feet with a flick of his wrist. Steph Curry is, after all, only human.

That's part of Curry's appeal. He's the star athlete who looks like an everyman, acts like Joe Somebody, and then goes to work and becomes the greatest shooter in NBA history. So it's understandable that the Warriors star's pursuit of Ray Allen's all-time 3-pointers record has impacted his play over the past week. Curry understands the gravity of the achievement, of reaching a mountain top that no other NBA legend has traversed. He knows what it means for his legacy, and it's clear that over the last five games, as Curry has inched closer to Allen's mark at a seemingly glacial pace, that the record is weighing on both he and the Warriors.

"I think he's been trying a little bit too hard the last few games," coach Steve Kerr said of Curry on Monday after the Warriors' 102-100 win over the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. "Just trying to make threes and get to this record, it will be a relief for him and for our team when he does break it. But I just think he has been trying a little bit too hard, and a lot of them have been coming out of blitzes when he is coming off pick-and-rolls, he just needs to make the simple pass, and he knows that, but he's kind of trying to hard to make a big play."

 

Curry entered Monday's game needing six 3-pointers to tie Allen's career mark and seven to break it. The two-time MVP had several wide-open looks early on against the Pacers, but as has been the case over the last week, Curry was just a little bit off. He finished with 26 points while going 5-for-15 from 3-point range to pull within two triples of the record.

Over the last five games, Curry is 26-for-76 (34.2 percent) from 3-point range. During that time, the Warriors' ball-movement on offense has seemingly been replaced by an operation that is just looking for Curry to get another look from distance. As a result, the Warriors' offense has been stagnant, sloppy, and looked weighed down by the specter of NBA history.

"Subconsciously, you just want him to get the record," Draymond Green said after the win over the Pacers when asked how the record chase is impacting the Warriors. "So, even if you're not going into the game saying, 'I'm going to give Steph the ball,' subconsciously, you want him to get the three up. That's always a good option. It's not like you're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole like we play that way anyway where we are trying to get Steph loose, so are we looking for Steph a little more? Maybe. ... I don't really think so."

Green sees turnovers, lackadaisical defense, and the inability to get out in transition as the bigger reason for the Warriors' offensive struggles.

"If you're playing against a set defense, Steph is going to have the ball," Green said. "Our offense is built around Steph Curry, and the last two or three games we have played against a set defense every play. We're not getting out in transition because we are fouling and turning the ball over. As the point guard, you're going to have the ball more if you're bringing the ball up and setting the play up every time. I think it falls on our defense and our turnovers as well, not just the record.

"I'll be happy as hell when it's over," Green said. "When he gets it, and he got it. Ultimately, I think he will beat this record by 1,000-plus threes, so I'll be happy when it's behind us."

Whether or not they want to admit it, Curry's quest has been a factor over the last three games especially. It was in the air Monday night in Indianapolis. Every time Curry touched the ball, all those in attendance willed him to rise and fire. Every make draws an eruption and every miss an exasperated groan. It's a playoff-like feel with the crowd hanging on Curry's every move, waiting for him to slip free and inch one step closer to history.

"We haven't talked about it, but when you get out there on the court, you kind of feel it," Kevon Looney said after the win vs. the Pacers. "Everybody wants to set a screen for him, everybody wants to force him shots a little bit when he doesn't really need help getting shots because he's great at creating his own. I feel like the other teams know that the record is there, and they are playing with a little extra juice when they play against us the last two games. ... It's a big moment in NBA history, so it's only right that there is a little bit of pressure and the moment can bring that type of energy."

 
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Anyone would feel pressure when on the cusp of a monumental professional achievement. The anticipation of reaching it can eat at you. The weight of expectation, of history, can alter your approach and plan of attack. You want something so bad that often that desire prolongs your journey.

Curry knows the place Allen holds in NBA history and knows what shattering that record will mean for his legacy. Another way of proving all those who doubted him wrong. Those who thought his ankles wouldn't hold. Those who didn't think he was a franchise superstar or believed a championship team couldn't be built around a jump-shooter. How about the best shooter in history?

"I'm just enjoying the moment," Curry said Monday. "Now that you're knocking on the doorstep, it's pretty surreal, but it's also just trying to let it happen. If there is one thing that I have learned over these last three games is just keep playing basketball, keep taking shots you think you'll make, and enjoy the experience of it because it's a long time coming."

Curry and the Warriors are caught in a slog that is often created when chasing history, when pursuing something so rare few ever witness it, let alone achieve it. It has altered their state, engulfed them and only Curry can shoot them out of it.

That time has finally arrived.

With two flicks of his wrist Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Warriors star will further etch his name into the annals of basketball in front of thousands of fans who once pleaded with the basketball gods to deliver Curry to New York.

"Hell yeah," Curry said chucking when asked if he was ready for the chase to conclude. "That means I'll have the record."

Of course, as with all great athletes, the latest achievement is just another beginning.

"Again, I'm just enjoying the moment. You won't get this again in terms of the chase to get over the mountaintop. After that, it will just be about how far can you push it?"