For the fifth straight postseason, the Golden State Warriors are headed to the NBA Finals. It’s not a surprising feat for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but things could have really gone awry six games ago. Remember, the Warriors were in a tight contest against the Houston Rockets in Game 5. They lost two games in a row, and Kevin Durant just went down with a calf injury. All of a sudden, the Warriors appeared to be vulnerable. Well, the opponents didn’t realize they were about to feel the wrath of Stephen Curry.
But how much different did Curry play over the last 22 quarters of playoff basketball? Curry averaged 17 shot attempts during the first 11 postseason games. Those numbers include the final moments of Game 5 without Durant in the lineup. Curry shot 44 percent and averaged 23.5 points per game during that run. He also attempted 9.5 3-pointers per game, making 37 percent.
Keep in mind, Curry is not a one trick pony on the basketball court. He averaged 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game with Durant on the floor. He got to the foul line 5.2 times per game and averaged 1.2 steals before Durant’s injury. Therefore, Curry was still being productive even when he seemingly missed every layup in Game 3 of the Rockets’ series.
However, something was unlocked over the last five games. The first thing you will notice is the 3-point shooting. Curry is shooting 41.7 percent from the 3-point line since Durant’s injury. Moreover, he is attempting 14.4 3-pointers per game since Durant’s calf injury. That’s roughly five more 3-point attempts than in the first 11 playoff games. Overall, Curry raised his shooting percentage to 46.6 percent. All the while, Curry attempted 23.2 shots per game. Meaning, he raised his attempts by more than six per game. As a result, Curry is averaging 35.8 points per game since Durant’s injury.
Yes, he is scoring 12.3 more points per game since Game 6 of the Western Conference semis.
Therefore, Curry isn’t just attempting more shots. He is producing at a higher clip across the board. The other intangibles have risen as well. He’s taking 8.6 free throw attempts per game. So far, he is shooting 94 percent from the foul line in the postseason. Yet, Curry is shooting 95 percent during the five-game span without Durant. However, Curry missed his first fourth quarter free throw since the 2015 NBA title run during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
He also walked instead of taking a wide open 2-point jumpshot with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Yet, the Warriors were still able to get the sweep in overtime. One reason why were those aforementioned intangibles. Curry ended the series with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His final assist to Draymond Green gave the Warriors a four-point lead late in overtime. Yet, this wasn’t an aberration. Curry is averaging 7.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists in the last five games. Furthermore, the amount of hockey assists are astounding with Curry at the helm. Curry began the Western Conference playoffs with 38 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. These bookend performances encapsulate what he means to the Warriors.
Another thing of note- foul trouble may have been the main culprit for Curry’s offensive woes in the middle of the playoff run. For example, Curry finished the first three games of the Rockets’ series with five fouls apiece. He averaged 18.3 points per game on 35 percent shooting during that stretch. However, Curry has only produced one game with at least four fouls since. It’s not a coincidence Curry scored at least 30 points in 6 of those 7 performances.
It will be interesting to see if Curry can keep up the shooting pace in the NBA Finals. For example, Curry is still posting his second worst 3-point shooting percentage in his playoff career. He shot 38.6 percent in a seven game first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014. Now, Curry is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs.
Curry needs 31 more 3-point makes to reach the century mark. His career high came in 2015 with 98 3-point makes. If the NBA Finals goes six games, Curry will need to make five 3-pointers per game to surpass his current record. Therefore, it’s possible we will see a new mark.
But what will happen if Durant returns at full strength? Will Curry be able to accomplish more with less? He is still only taking 18.9 shots per game in the playoffs. Curry averaged 20.9 shots per game in the 2015 postseason. He also averaged 20.3 shot attempts during last season’s run. That will be a huge factor when the Warriors face the Bucks or Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.