There aren't enough superlatives to describe what Stephen Curry has been doing to the NBA over the past few weeks. His season numbers rival those of his unanimous MVP season of 2015-16, but recently the best shooter in basketball history has taken things to the realm of outright absurdity.
In seven games in the month of April, Curry has put up 39.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game on a ridiculous 77.2 true shooting percentage. He's made 47 3-pointers in seven games, breaking his own NBA record by making a total of 29 3s in a three-game stretch against the Rockets, Nuggets and Thunder. All of this led Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has seen firsthand the best and brightest moments of Curry's career, to elevate his praise to a metaphysical level after Curry's 42-point performance in 29 minutes against OKC on Wednesday.
"It's beautiful to watch. It's a man at the peak of his powers with a lifetime of training and work, not just on his body but on his mind," Kerr said. "He's functioning at a level that very few human beings have ever functioned at in their particular field. It's just beautiful to watch."
While Curry's latest exploits may, nobody is mistaking the Warriors for a championship contender this season. Their inability to consistently beat good teams seems to have them destined for the play-in tournament, which should be terrifying to the other three teams involved.
One of those potential opponents could be the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nobody would have guessed at the beginning of the season, but injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James have the Lakers sitting in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference with the NBA's seventh-most difficult remaining schedule, according to Tankathon.com. Here's a glimpse at some of the opponents on the upcoming slate for the Lakers, who are expected to be without James for about three more weeks and without Davis for at least another 7-10 days: Celtics, Jazz (twice), Mavericks (twice), Nuggets, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Suns, Knicks.
The Lakers have been staying afloat, going 6-7 since James' injury in late March, largely thanks to their stellar defense. But that is a brutal stretch to negotiate even for full-strength teams, let alone one that's missing perhaps the world's best basketball player. Even if Davis returns for some of those games, he'll likely be on a minutes restriction, at least to start, as he works his way back into shape.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks, who are currently 3.5 games back of the Lakers in the No. 7 spot, have the easiest remaining schedule in the entire NBA, according to Tankathon.com, including consecutive home games against the Lakers next week which will prove pivotal in the Western Conference standings.
None of us can predict the future, but it's certainly a possibility based on these factors that the Lakers could end up falling into the No. 7 spot, which would place them squarely in the play-in round. You'd think a full-strength Lakers squad would easily handle any of the potential No. 8 seeds, but what if that ends up being the Warriors? Golden State is currently No. 9 in the West and has a favorable remaining schedule, including six consecutive home games to end the season.
A LeBron James-Steph Curry play-in game is about the most entertaining possible outcome for the NBA, and it would be a terrifying proposition for the Lakers given how well Curry has played this season and his penchant for going nuclear at any given moment. L.A.'s defense has been elite all season, but if there's anyone who can break the most disciplined of defenses, it's Curry. We just watched him drop 25 points on 6-for-6 3-point shooting IN A SINGLE QUARTER against the Thunder, and back in January Curry put up 19 points in the second half to lead a stunning comeback victory over the Lakers at Staples Center.
Over the course of a series, the Lakers might win four out of five games. But in a play-in scenario, a single loss to a red-hot Curry would put the Lakers in a must-win matchup against the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game to avoid being sent home before the first round.
Yes this is a lot of conjecture and "what ifs," but as a basketball fan you should probably start preparing yourself for the possibility that the Lakers could end up in the play-in round, with Curry and the Warriors as potential opponents.