Stephen Curry

The Golden State Warriors don’t want to rely too much on Stephen Curry, but when he’s hot, it’s a crime not to ride his shooting streak, as he led his team to a 114-97 road win against the Miami Heat, which included making a huge comeback during the second quarter.

Curry, coming off two rough games (Shooting a combined 8-of-24), finished with 40 points on 11-of-18 from the field, including hitting eight 3-pointers. He also added 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, supported by the shooting of Klay Thompson with 24 points, as he’s cooled down since the beginning of the season, not looking like an MVP anymore. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green both scored in double figures, while Andrew Bogut posted a nice stat line of 8 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, but his best work came in the form of his defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Heat to just 11 points.

The Heat held a 16 point lead in the second quarter, but the Warriors closed it out on a 23-8 run, and carried on from there. Curry didn’t just shoot like a wild west gunner all game long. Early on it was about coming off the right picks and screens to hit open shots. The problem for opposing teams is once Curry gets going, it become very difficult to actually slow him down. The Heat, still playing without Dwyane Wade, shot very poorly (38.8% from the field) throughout the game, and simply couldn’t keep up.

The key was the fourth quarter defense, something both coaches agreed upon after the game. As impressive as the shooting was from the Warriors and especially Curry, it’s going to be the defense and their ability to look less wild on offense, which means turning the ball less (only 11 turnovers against the Heat) that determines whether this excellent start to the season (11-2) will be translated into playoff success a few months from now.

Chris Bosh led the Miami Heat with 26 points and 9 rebounds, followed by four more players in double figures. However, as the LeBron James departure turned them more into a team, the Heat are lacking someone who can actually respon to such an individual performance from Curry. The NBA is a team game, and the best team, not the best player, usually wins, as we learned in the 2014 NBA finals. However, from time to time it is simply about the superstar that shines. Even if Wade was playing, the Heat are not that team anymore.

This was a blow not just because the Heat struggle in generating a winning streak and picking up the pace set by the Raptors and the Wizards early this season. This was the third time this season they’ve lost to a good Western conference team at home this season. All of those losses, with the previous ones coming against the Clippers and the Rockets, have been by exactly 17 points. A coincidence, surely, but also very telling as to their level at the moment.

Curry? He’s averaging 23.9 points with 7.7 assists per game, while shooting 48.6% from the field. It’s a bit too early to talk about MVP candidates and contenders, but Curry will definitely be in the mix when the talk becomes more serious thanks to performances like this one.

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