Last Sunday, Steph Curry reminded everyone that he's still one of the best players in the world, pouring in 62 points to set a new career high in the Golden State Warriors' win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Exactly a week later, Curry reminded everyone that he is indeed human.
He managed just 11 points against the Toronto Raptors and submitted the worst shooting performance of his career, going 2 of 16 from the field. The good news for the Warriors is that the result was the same -- barely. They staved off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to escape with a 106-105 win after Pascal Siakam's last-second effort bounced out.
It was a great sign for the Warriors that, even shorthanded, they were able to grind out a win despite Curry having a tough night. As coach Steve Kerr put it postgame, "We have enough talent and enough weapons to overcome a bad shooting performance." But how did it happen? How did the Raptors hold the greatest shooter to ever live to 12 percent from the field, and how did the Warriors still win?
The first thing that stood out is the Raptors were determined not to let Curry beat them with his scoring. And to their credit, they accomplished that. Sure, Curry missed some open jumpers -- that's always going to be the case when players post putrid lines like this -- but that wasn't the only reason he couldn't score.
He was often trying to get shots off like this.
Or like this.
We know Curry can make tough attempts, but the Raptors really did make life miserable for him. They went box-and-one right from the opening tip, and had someone face-guarding him all night long when he was off the ball. When he did take control, they were pressuring him as much as possible, and often sending help defenders his way.
But Curry isn't just a scorer, and he knows what to do when teams focus all of their attention on him. Just take a look at the first possession, which really set the tone for how the game would go. Curry works his way around a bunch of screens, draws multiple defenders and isn't able to get a shot, but creates a wide-open look for Draymond Green.
Again, the Raptors double and Curry whips a beautiful lefty pass to Green, who sets up James Wiseman with an easy lob. Curry won't even get an assist on this play, but he created the bucket by drawing the attention and making the right pass to break down the defense.
Here's one where Curry didn't even have the ball, but three Raptors are staring at him as he cuts, and Andrew Wiggins is able to sneak backdoor for a lob.
At this point you get the picture. Curry might not have been scoring, but he was still making life easier for his teammates. The Raptors knew that would happen to some extent. They didn't want to give up alley-oops, but they were willing to accept some open looks for other players, and their bet was that the rest of the Warriors wouldn't be able to make them pay.
In the first half, they lost that wager. Led by Andrew Wiggins (11 points) and James Wiseman (10 points), Warriors not named Curry went 22 of 43 from the field, and Golden State took a 10-point lead into the break. Their advantage climbed to as much as 17 points early in the fourth, before things finally started to turn.
Some of it was the natural ebb and flow of an NBA game, where teams that have big leads let off the gas, and some of it was Curry sitting out to start the quarter. But a lot of it was guys just missing shots. The Warriors went 5 of 20 in the final 12 minutes, and only managed to scrape together even 19 points because they got to the line a few times.
Plays like this -- Curry weaving around screens, attracting the defense and giving it up to generate an open look for someone else -- weren't different than in the first half. The shots just didn't go in.
In fact, it got so bad that the Raptors were able to briefly take the lead late in the fourth. Ironically, it was only then that Curry really had any success putting the ball in the basket. He hit a difficult 3, then got to the line for two free throws in the final few minutes to keep things within striking distance, before Damion Lee won the game with two clutch foul shots of his own.
The headlines will be about Curry's woeful shooting performance, and with good reason. But he also had nine rebounds, six assists and set up a number of other baskets. This wasn't a terrible all-around performance from him. He stayed within the offense, didn't force things and trusted his teammates down the stretch -- almost to a fault. It was yet another reminder that though he certainly will, Curry doesn't have to score to beat you.