Stephen Curry continued to lock up his MVP case Thursday night, even with almost two months remaining in the regular season.
In a 130-114 win over the Magic, Curry dropped 51 points on 20-27 shooting, 10-15 from three-point range, to go with seven rebounds, and eight assists. And he did it on the second night of a back-to-back, following a 42-point explosion vs. the Miami Heat Wednesday night.
Watching Curry is to see a player in total control of the game (watch the highlights of Thursday’s performance and see how he orchestrates the offence) — a player who can not only beat defences, but force them to adjust, then break the adjustment, turning opponents into a scampering, frustrated mess. There isn’t a better player in the NBA right now.
And the scariest part is he may be getting better. As ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote, Curry’s personal trainer, Brandon Payne, doesn’t see Curry’s dominance as a peak, but rather the beginning of what Curry can accomplish. Much of that is due to Curry’s incredible strength which helps give him such impossible range.
“The strength that he has is allowing him to step further and further back without changing his mechanics,” Payne said. “He’s able to create any look that he wants because he’s able to get backward away from pressure.”
Payne also brushed off the idea that the way to defend Curry to play him more physically.
“I’ve heard people say you need to take his space. Well, if you get up tight on him, that’s actually what we want you to do. We want you to get up tight on him because then it’s going to open lanes to the basket when he plays off the high post. … To say that you would completely shut him down or render him not effective with more physical defence, I don’t think that’s accurate. He just has too many things he can go to.”
As ESPN’s Pablo Torre recently broke down, Curry recovered from early-career ankle injuries by strengthening his legs and core. He mastered several tough exercises, focuses on one-legged routines for extra balance, and he can now dead-lift the second-highest weight on the Warriors.
While his frame may be deceiving, Curry is clearly incredibly strong. Who else pulls off these types of shots?
Or how about the casual, one-dribble, pull-up 25-foot shot off of a bad outlet pass?
Strauss notes that this season, Curry is 35-52 on shots between 28 to 50 feet — 67%. He’s 4-11 on shots beyond 39 feet — 36%. While that’s a drop-off, Curry’s 36% shooting from 39 feet or further is still a better mark than 23 other NBA teams’ overall percentage on three-pointers.
Curry has taken his game to another level this season. As Payne sees it, as Curry continues to fine-tune his game, he’ll have greater strength to shoot deeper shots. When the defence plays up on him to take away those shots, he’ll have the explosiveness to get by them and wreak havoc in the lane.
The NBA has never seen something like Curry before, and this may only be the beginning.
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