OAKLAND — No game better epitomized Stephen Curry’s rocky transition from unanimous MVP to Kevin Durant’s co-star than the Golden State Warriors’ Christmas Day loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Durant dropped 36 points and grabbed 15 boards, Curry managed just 11 shots and found himself stranded on the bench for the team’s final defensive possession.
“I think Steph has probably had the biggest adjustment of all of our players with Kevin’s arrival,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “I think, if you look at it from a practical standpoint, he’s doing great. I mean, his numbers are still fantastic.”
Curry entered the Dubs’ Wednesday night matchup with the Toronto Raptors averaging 24.1 points per game and shooting 47 percent. Both are are fantastic numbers — except when juxtaposed against his stats from a year ago.
“[He] also happens to be coming off the greatest shooting season in the history of mankind last year,” Kerr added. “And so, he has set the bar so high for himself [that] it’s going to be a point of discussion.”
The most glaring difference between this year and last is that Curry isn’t taking nearly as many shots. After averaging 20.2 field goal attempts per game last season, that number has dropped to 16.8, leaving Curry third on the team behind Durant (17.1) and Klay Thompson (17.2).
Curry’s Christmas Day-dud — one of four games in which he’s hoisted 11 shots or fewer — was part of a season-long trend in which the Splash Brother has been uncharacteristically deferential.
“It kind of happens naturally, to be honest with you,” Curry said when asked about the specific ways he’s deferred to Durant. “It’s not really anything you have to force. It’s obvious, you know where he is on the floor, I know where Klay is on the floor. When they get going, you kind of ride that wave.”
When asked point-blank if the ball has been in his hands enough in the season’s opening months, Curry offered a telling response.
“I definitely want to be in more pick-and-roll situations, whether I’m getting shots or whether we’re manufacturing ball movement,” Curry said as he launched into a rambling 128-word answer that at no point directly addressed the question. “That’s a strength of ours — regardless of how teams play us.”
The back-to-back MVP will have to do his damage without the ball and often in ways that are more difficult to quantify. As Curry put it, that will include creating “confusion” for the defense and letting the numbers take care of themselves.
“If this is a down year and I’m doing what I’m doing right now,” Curry said with a shrug, “I’ll take that and keep pushing.”