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Curry versus Beal as Warriors walk into Wizards home turf
Juan Toscano-Anderson still out, but Golden State's playoff dreams are very much in!
The Washington Wizards have won five straight, but are about to run into the flaming hands of one Stephen Curry, leading scorer in the NBA. Recently supplanted (now runner up), Bradley Beal has his team humming as they, too, chase their way into the NBA’s new play in tournament.
Both teams feature flawed rosters that are buoyed by the resplendent star power of their team’s leading scorer, so this game could be an individual showdown battle for the ages.
On the injury front, the Warriors are still going to be without Juan Toscano-Anderson, who hasn’t yet cleared concussion protocols after a scary fall two games ago. Apparently, Damion Lee has a minor toe thing and has been listed as “questionable” - but we should have a better idea about his availability prior to today’s game.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (29-29) at Washington Wizards (24-33)
WHEN: Wednesday, April 21, 2021 // 4:00pm PST <— EARLY!
Some people call it old, some people call it "experienced”
Anyone who has ever played in an open gym basketball game has run into him (or her). The wily “old man game” is synonymous with players who are mostly washed, but still cooking people. Curry is far from washed - possibly hitting his athletic peak at the ripe age of 33, fact - but his old man game is on full display this season.
In the month of April (10 games), Curry is scoring 40.7 points per game on shooting splits of 55% overall, and an insane 53.8% from deep on 143 three-point attempts.
As all of the bad takes about Curry’s greatness die of exposure on the hills of his historical greatness, we are being treated to one of the most impressive singular basketball runs of all time. These aren’t just neat streaks, Curry is pushing the bounds of basketball history outwards.
All at an age where most players are in decline, Curry is as good as he’s ever been.
In a season fraught with uncertainties, Curry has once again shouldered an entire franchise, and is providing an everlasting supply of hope on a nightly basis.
Like the reluctant hero in a Fantasy novel, Curry has been thrust into this role, but it isn’t his default preference. Curry was in some ways just the last guy left standing there; after losing half of the Splash Brothers firepower, and with a few other holes in the roster caused by an early injury to Marquese Chriss and the wobbly development of exciting, but raw rookie, James Wiseman the only real solution around this roster is to lean more heavily on Curry.
This season has turned into the Curry show in a way that no other season has before. The spotlight is more focused on him. Via a combination of personal brilliance and dearth of other options, Curry has stepped more deeply into the role of superstar, and it’s beautiful. Barring the injury-shortened last season, Curry has been in at least the 98th percentile or higher in points scored per attempt for an entire decade. He’s currently in the 100th percentile in points scored per attempt… for his third consecutive full season, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Tonight, he’s going up against the guy chasing him in points per game, Bradley Beal. And sure, it doesn’t really matter - but like so many awards, it sort of does somehow at the same time.
Not doing it alone
But while Curry is more prominently in the spotlight than ever before, that’s not to say that his supporting cast is moot. Thanks to Kerr’s minor playbook adjustments, Curry killed the 76ers with the pick-and-roll, where he took 17 shots as the ball handler out of PnR, with a murderous 1.5 points per possession.
The second best Warrior in said pick-and-roll? Jordan Poole, who ran four of them, converting at 1.25 points per. Draymond Green has quietly scored in double digits in five of the past 11 games after only doing it five times in the first 31 games of the season.
As Anthony Slater pointed out after the win over the 76ers, the Warriors have been finally started to look like they can survive the minutes without Curry on the court. While winning six of their last eight games, the bench has been a net positive +35 without Curry - a major breakthrough, if they can keep this working.
Kevon Looney is putting in a lot of very solid work at the center position. Much like Curry, Looney has been thrust deeper into a role due to injuries across the roster, and responding. He just set a career his in minutes played with 34 minutes against the Sixers, breaking his previous record of 31 minutes - set in the previous game.
Altogether, the Warriors may be figuring things out, just like coach Steve Kerr said they would. I don’t think anyone had this exact path drawn out, but the destination charted true.
You are not going to want to miss this game. Curry versus Beal promises to be an epic battle, and the hot Wizards team meets a Warriors squad that looks as good as it has all season.
Curry will be too much for the Wizards, and the Warriors will win a tight one, 115-112.