Matisse Thybulle spent Saturday night staying in front of Steph Curry when he could, chasing him effectively when he couldn’t, blocking two shots and generally using his height advantage and 6-foot-11 wingspan to shadow the two-time MVP.
While praising Thybulle for his terrific defense, which was a factor in the Warriors taking a 102-93 loss to the 76ers, one must also consider that the Warriors failed to take advantage of the gravity Curry created simply by being on the court.
Curry was, for the most part, the only member of his team consistently seeing rigid defense and, often, multiple defenders. The deck stacked against him, and he did not overcome it.
The deck was stacked in favor of his teammates, and they did not exploit it.
“We missed a lot of good shots,” Draymond Green said. “You miss open shots, you lose.”
Coach Steve Kerr cited the harsh statistics behind a loss that on most nights this season would have been a victory.
“Well, 12-for-48 from 3 ... the ball’s got to go in,” he said. “To win the game, you’ve got to make some shots.
“They did a really good job on Steph. They just kept Thybulle on him the whole game, and he harassed him really well. They sent some doubles. We just couldn’t make them pay enough for paying so much attention to Steph.”
The loss dropped the Warriors from first place to second in the Western Conference, one-half game behind the Phoenix Suns. At this point of the season, that’s of small consequence. Of greater issue is that Golden State will find it difficult to beat any team if Curry is taken away and his open teammates are launching bricks as frequently as they did against the 76ers.
“Of the 48 3s that we got, I’d bet you 40 of them were really good looks, not just me but for everybody,” Curry said with better accuracy than the team’s shooters. “It’s tough to win games when you shoot 25 percent on those type of shots.”
Curry scored 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-14 beyond the arc. Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins were fine, combining for 43 points on 15-of-28 shooting, including 7-of-17 from deep.
The bench shooters, primarily Nemanja Bjelica, Damion Lee and Otto Porter Jr., combined to shoot 3-of-16 from the field, 2-of-10 from deep. And most of their shots were open -- or wiiiide open -- because of the attention on Curry.
For Bjelica and Lee, this is becoming a pattern. Bjelica has spent a month searching for his shot, and is 12-of-46 (26.1 percent) from deep over the 16 games since Nov. 8. Since shooting 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from deep over the first seven games, Lee over his last 13 games -- there was inactive stretch while his son was born -- is at 13.5 percent (5-of-31).
Aside from a three-game stretch during which he went 0-of-7 from deep, Porter has been the team’s most consistent deep shooter: 43.8 percent in October, 43.3 percent in November, 38.5 percent in December -- until 1-of-6 against Philly.
While Thybulle committed himself to defending Curry, and preventing a career record for 3-point makes being shattered in Philadelphia, the supporting cast didn’t punish Thybulle’s less committed teammates.
“We got decent looks, spread it around,” Curry said. “I like our chances if we get those looks night after night, knowing I’ll shoot better and our team will shoot better as a whole.”
“The record is cool, but we also created pretty good shots all night. You’ve got to live with that.”
The Warriors didn’t live with it on Saturday. Rather, they were undone by it because too many of their appointed shooters failed to capitalize on the opportunity handed them by the presence of Curry.