OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors have mostly survived their stint without Stephen Curry.
They went 9-1 since he was injured in New Orleans earlier this month with one more game without him left.
They’ve exceeded all expectations, even those from their coach.
“I learned how competitive they are,” Steve Kerr said on Thursday. “… Our guys have a lot of pride and they compete and they want to win, they do not want to be embarrassed. They wanted to prove that they could win without Steph and they’ve done a hell of a job.”
It’s taken a new identity to achieve those results. They’re scoring 12.7 fewer points per game, but allowing 9.3 fewer points per game in the process. (The 97.9 points allowed per the last 10 games would be the best mark in the league.)
The buzz around the team’s facility from the back-to-back star’s return is undeniable. Kerr ruled Curry out for today’s game, but expects he’ll be back for Saturday’s tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The defense will shift, because they won’t be able to run out groups of players who are a similar height. But Kerr is confident that the Warriors can maintain their defensive momentum when Curry comes back.
“We’ve missed Steph’s ability to play the passing lanes, to pressure the ball and cause havoc with his speed and quickness,” Kerr said. “It’ll be a little different. But I think the attention to detail defensively has been big because we knew, without Steph, we wouldn’t have that explosiveness.”
More than just an impact on either side of the floor, though, the Warriors will get the face of their franchise back when Curry takes the court. While out of commission, he’s been seen behind the bench, dancing and offering tips to his teammates.
“We talk about joy all the time. Nobody plays with more joy than Steph Curry,” Kerr said. “The fact that he’s so unselfish as a player and as a human being, he’s so giving. When your best player has those attributes, it’s amazing the tone it sets.”
Kerr has been around the NBA since 1988 and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the league. So, naturally, he loves to make comparisons to some of the greats he’s played with or against in the past.
“I’ve said it many times, but [Curry] reminds me of playing with Tim Duncan in San Antonio,” Kerr said. “His personality, the force of his humility and talent — which is a rare combination. The force of that combination is just tone setting for almost two decades for San Antonio. Steph is doing the same thing for us.”