Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are once again lighting it up against NBA defenses this season.
Curry is playing like a two-time MVP and the NBA-leading Warriors (13-2), who were knocked out during the play-in tournament last season, rallied for a 104-89 win at Cleveland on Thursday behind 40 points and nine 3-pointers from Curry, including 20 points in the fourth quarter. He has scored 36 or more points six times this season, including a 50-point explosion against Atlanta on Nov. 8. Now, the Pistons are next up on Friday at Little Caesars Arena (7 p.m., BSD).
“There’s 29 other teams that are not excited about going against him because he’s having a career year,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said Thursday afternoon. “Watching some of the shots he’s taking, the more pressure you put on him, the further out he goes and he makes those shots. It’s not like anyone is surprised now that they go in. He really, really spaces the floor, so your transition defense and your pickup point has to be as soon as he touches the ball.”
It’s not certain the Pistons will have to deal with Curry. He suffered a left hip contusion earlier this week and the Warriors will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Golden State’s hot start has come without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, as both are still rehabbing from long-term injuries.
The Warriors lead the league in scoring and field goal percentage (47.4%) despite taking the second-most 3-pointers. They also top the league in defensive field goal percentage (42.3%).
“They’re such a well-oiled machine,” Casey said. “They know where each other is going to be, their spacing is perfect, their passing is perfect. They have a group of guys who are not only good shooters but they’re excellent passers.”
The Warriors are also one of the league’s biggest draws, as are the Los Angeles Lakers, who visit on Sunday. The fans may get more excited for those matchups but Casey doesn’t want his team thinking that way.
“We’ve got no right not to be jacked up for whoever comes to the LCA,” he said. “We’re on that ladder trying to climb up to the top. We should be jacked up for anyone, not just the Lakers, not just Golden State, not just Miami. We’re a young team that should be hungry. If we don’t have that personality each and every night, you see how that turns out.”
Poole making a splash
Michigan basketball product Jordan Poole has become a key member of the Warriors’ rotation. Poole, a late first-round pick in 2019, excelled off the bench last season.
He has moved into the starting lineup this year with Thompson still recovering from an Achilles tear. Poole is averaging 16.5 points and 32 assists as Curry’s backcourt partner, though he has struggled with his 3-point shooting (28.6%).
“Jordan had the luxury of playing last year with the second unit when they were in sort of a rebuild situation where guys were hurt and out, and got valuable experience, big-time experience,” Casey said. “He’s growing right before our eyes.”
Diallo makes defensive stand
Hamidou Diallo and Josh Jackson are battling for minutes on the second unit. Diallo had five DNPs this month but got a chance to play rotation minutes in the 97-89 win over Indiana while Jackson sat.
Diallo made a layup on the only shot he attempted and had two rebounds in 14 minutes. Casey thought Diallo performed better than the stat sheet indicated.
“He played within himself, got the rebound, got it to the point guard and defensively, he was solid,” Casey said. “He did a great job in our traps, even forced (Indiana) to call a timeout. That type of activity is what you need from that position.”
Confidence will grow when shots fall
The Pistons’ 3-point shooting has been an eyesore — 29.5% — and they overcame another series of shooting blanks from deep against the Pacers. They knocked down 8 of 28 attempts (28.6%) but their defense held Indiana’s 3-point shooters to 24.3%.
“Once our shooting does come around, I think that’s going to help in a lot of areas, whether it’s our energy level, confidence level, togetherness, point production, whatever it is,” Casey said. “It shouldn’t be that way but I think every team in the league is tied to their shooting.”