Stephen Curry returned to action as the Golden State Warriors took on the defending champion Toronto Raptors last night. It was his first time on the court since he broke his hand back in November against the Phoenix Suns, 58 games ago.
The Golden State Warriors didn’t win. They’re still the worst team in the league from a win/loss standpoint. And they continued to make some sloppy mistakes, a central theme of this grueling season. But this team played with a twinkle in their eye the likes of which we hadn’t seen even before Stephen Curry got injured.
The Baby Faced Assassin posted 23 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds in his 27-minute return to action. The champ is officially back.
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The excitement that Curry provides is one thing. In this game, he hit a few of his signature logo length threes, one of which was a four-point play. His off the ball movement and flashy assists provided a lot of awe as well.
But where his presence was truly felt — at least where it mattered most — was when he had the ball in his hands, before he could even do any of that phenomenal stuff.
Because he can launch the ball from anywhere and have it be a high percentage shot or the fact that he can find a seemingly impossible pocket to pass the ball through to a cutting player the spacing on the floor is a lot broader for the rest of the team.
Stephen Curry is a threat by every definition of the word. So when he’s got the ball, all the attention is on him, which allows everyone else to have more room for cutting and slashing to the wing.
Even when he doesn’t have the ball and is trying to get open, he simply demands so much attention. And because of this, his sheer presence makes the game easier for the rest of his team.
These young players have had to scrap for every inch over the past four months. Now they’ve got a bit of breathing room to do what they’ve grown accustomed to fighting for. That’s bound to yield some strong results over time.
A lot of these new players probably didn’t envision this season playing out this way. Even with the departure of Kevin Durant, and the injury to Klay Thompson, this team went to five straight NBA Finals, and was looking to bring some of that consistency into this season to at the very least compete for a playoff spot.
That all ended when Curry went down. And his absence was the nail in the coffin in making this young Warriors team realize that absolutely nothing is promised to them.
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They still had Draymond Green, who some might call the spirit of the team, but while he can provide veteran wisdom and insight, he can’t inspire on the court like the greatest shooter of all time can.
Over the past few months, the young Dubs have amassed an invaluable amount of experience with loads of meaningful playing time. It’s allowed them to learn the system and build chemistry in a relatively low stakes environment.
They’re not going to the playoffs and they’re not competing for any individual accolades. With Curry back, it was like they were playing for something for the first time, even when he wasn’t on the floor.
The energy in the building was just different. The players seemed to be hustling harder and playing more focused for longer stretches of time than we’ve seen from them. And the liveliness in the crowd was reminiscent of Oracle Arena.
They were easily as engaged as they’ve been since last season. Things finally feel normal again.
In what was easily the most thrilling game of the season, Stephen Curry single-handedly injected life back into this Warriors team, the bay area, and Dubs fans everywhere.
But on top of that, he provided us all with a glimpse into the future of what this team is going to look like when they’re back at full strength.
I think it’s safe to say that things are looking up.