Without Stephen Curry the Golden State Warriors looked very one dimensional offensively, resulting in a 104-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers and a big night from Rodney Stuckey. Klay Thompson wasn’t bad himself, but was all alone in a battle that needed a bit more than just him.
Stuckey scored 30 points off the bench in perhaps his best game of the season, scoring 30 points in consecutive games, the first ever bench player for the franchise to do so. Despite his dominance, it was a C.J. Miles 3-pointer with 27 seconds left that clinched the win, once again opening up a four point lead the Warriors couldn’t bounce back from (101-97). Thompson was scorching with 39 points, but only one other player (Andre Iguodala) finished in double figures, as the Warriors struggled to get open shots and the easy points we’re accustomed to see from them.
With the loss, their 10th of the season and a first after four consecutive wins, they’re tied with the 1996 Chicago Bulls, the holders for the best record in a regular season with a 72-10. The Warriors, at best, can tie that mark, but it’ll take 29 consecutive wins, which will be the longest winning streak in the history of the franchise. It might be a bit presumptuous to try and predict the future, but we’re guessing the Warriors won’t make it that far on their next winning streak.
Thompson started red hot with 15 points in the first quarter and hit 12-of-28 from the field, including 5-of-13 from beyond the arc and 10-of-10 from the line, but the Warriors as a team were terrible, shooting only 38.2% from the field, hardly getting into the paint (30 paint points) and generating 15 fast break points. That might be good for most teams, but the Warriors defense usually sets up a lot more easy opportunities for them.
The absence of Curry didn’t hurt the defense, but it strangled the transition game. As good of a shooter that Curry is, he’s an excellent ball handler and passer. More than anything, he forces a lot of focus out of opposing team defenses. Suddenly, without him, it was about Thompson working hard for every single point while the likes of Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes seemed completely ordinary, not getting the free looks they usually do.
There’s an ongoing debate about the MVP candidates, and usually when Stephen Curry gets mentioned in comparison to James Harden and LeBron James (although Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis are also in it), he gets dismissed for being part of a team, and not that important to the Warriors, who can do well without him. Maybe this loss to the Pacers, although it’s just one game, will open the eyes to the value of the best shooter in the league.
The Pacers kind of got forgotten in this rant about how bad the Warriors were. The Pacers, despite a 23-33 record, have the ability to make good teams look a lot worse than usual. They’ve lost a lot of assets (but getting one back pretty soon) compared to last season, but their team defense is something that carried on from last year. It doesn’t look pretty on most nights, but that doesn’t matter. In the East, it just might be good enough to make the playoffs.