It’s dissipated some over the last few years, but there’s been a long-running, highly uninformed narrative that Stephen Curry doesn’t show up in the playoffs. It’s never been anything close to true. What has been true is Curry has been closer to human in the playoffs, which is understandable. Defenses get tougher. He is schemed for mercilessly. He gets double- and even triple-teamed as a matter of course. Still, he has better postseason numbers than Kobe Bryant, on far more efficient clips.
|Career playoff averages||Points||Assists||Rebounds||FG%||3P%|
The reason it’s necessary to point out the flaws of previous postseason Curry claims is to be very clear about the fact this this 2019 postseason is something different, and this second-round series against the Houston Rockets, to this point, is something especially different. Curry has been bad. No two ways about it. And not just by his lofty standards. Just bad. By any standard.
Curry finished Golden State’s Game 3 loss with 17 points on 7-of-23 shooting including 2-of-9 from 3, and that was after hitting his first two shots of the game. The Rockets aren’t doing anything special against him. They’re guarding him hard, not helping off him, switching his off-ball screens and doubling occasionally when he runs pick-and-roll — all basic coverages that he’s plenty used to seeing, and beating.
Only difference is, he’s not beating anyone. At least not consistently. For the series against Houston, he’s 8-for-32 from 3. Long gone is the Curry who could seemingly create space any time he wanted it. Whether that’s because playing with Kevin Durant has gotten out of that rhythm is perhaps a debate, but you almost never see it anymore. Even when he does beat switches or get to the rim, he is not finishing the same in these playoffs. In Game 3, Curry missed seven shots in the restricted area, the most for a single player in a single playoff game in the last 20 years, per ESPN. Have a look:
Curry was lights-out in the playoff opener against the Clippers, going 8-of-12 from 3. From that point forward, he’s shooting just 35 percent from downtown. He’s in constant foul trouble. He’s not making an appreciable impact as a playmaker for others. Golden State plays him mostly off the ball these days, so his impact really comes from scoring and drawing defensive attention. He’s always going to do the latter, which is part of the reason even his sub-par statistical games are often ignorantly criticized given the impact his mere presence and willingness to move constantly without the ball has on games.
But again, this is different. He’s genuinely playing badly in this series. He looks more and more like a guy who isn’t contributing a ton when he isn’t hitting shots — and he’s not hitting many shots. Durant can’t do it all. Houston is back in this series at 2-1 with Game 4 on Monday, and if James Harden is going to be criticized when he doesn’t play well in the playoffs (which to a large degree he hasn’t this year), Curry has to be held to the same fire. This missed “dunk” late in the fourth quarter was simply inexcusable:
Look at the time and score there. That bucket would’ve cut the Rockets’ lead to three with 20 seconds to play. This game was far from over, and Curry thinks it’s a good time to prove he can dunk? This isn’t the first time Curry has done this, either. On multiple occasions he’s gotten stoned by the rim trying to prove he’s a big boy. Just lay the dang ball in. Take the two points. Foul Houston and see what happens.
To Curry’s credit, he made no excuses after the game. He said the finger he dislocated on his left hand in Game 2 had nothing to do with the way he played. Truth is, he wasn’t playing all that well before the finger injury. And besides that, Harden’s out there looking like a cat mauled his eyeball, and he just put up 41. Usually when Curry has even one bad shooting game, you can count on him to come out blazing the next time. But he has actually been more prone to clusters of bad shooting games this season than at any point over the past five years.
“He just had a tough night,” Steve Kerr said after the game. “It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re going to have some bad games.”
Curry’s now had more than one bad game. More than a few, actually. And the Warriors are one more loss on Monday from being in a serious jam heading back to Oakland in a tied series with no momentum and a Houston team out for blood. For the last three years there’s been a lot of talk about whether the Warriors are Curry’s team or Durant’s team. For the most part, it’s been kind of a dumb question. They’ve both been so great it hasn’t mattered. Take your pick. But right now, Curry is simply not pulling enough weight. The Warriors would be sunk without Durant. And this might be the last year they have him.