Stephen Curry has spent the last 11 games in street clothes, recovering from a strained groin muscle.
In that time the Warriors have gone 5-6 with an offense that has been pretty average (13th in the NBA over that stretch). As a team, they shot 34.4 percent from three, 19th in the NBA. Kevin Durant started to take charge more of late (three wins and a tough overtime loss in Toronto) and the offense improved, but it hasn’t been able to cover up for a bottom-10 defense (the Warriors miss Draymond Green, too). Then there was the blowup between Green and Durant over an end-of-game situation, which became a running drama in the press for days.
Saturday night, everything changes and Curry returns to the Golden State lineup as they take on the Pistons in Detroit.
Curry was playing back to his MVP season levels before he went down — 29.5 points per game, shooting 51.5 percent overall and 49.2 percent from three on 10.5 attempts per game, he also was dishing out 6.1 assists a night and had a PER of 28.9. More importantly, Curry was not deferring anymore but was hunting his shot and taking charge of the offense in ways he hadn’t done since starting to share the court with Kevin Durant. Curry was aggressive, it made his gravity on offense stronger, and that was opening up the Golden State offense.
The Warriors have been 13.8 points per 100 possession better when Curry is on the court this season.
Without Curry, the Warriors “stumbled” to a 15-8 record that has them currently fourth in the West, but just a game back of the top seed Clippers (still feels strange typing that).
Now, the Warriors are about to become a whole lot better. Through all of this, when you talked to people around the NBA, nobody thought the Warriors were in actual trouble. Golden State was going to get healthy at some point and their stars are too professional not to put everything aside and make it work, with a focus on the playoffs. The Warriors were going to be the Warriors again and the rest of the NBA was going to be chasing them.
That starts tonight in Detroit.