The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Stephen Curry has some words for his haters/doubters… 62 of them
Stephen Curry heard the criticism: He’s great with a bunch of All-Star teammates, but he can’t really lead a team. He’s overrated. He’s a shooter, nothing more. Some foolish fans seemed willing to toss out two MVP seasons and three rings (with five straight Finals trips) because of a slow start with a completely new (and less talented) roster. Even Channing Frye got in on the act (without knowing much about Warriors history).
Curry came out and exploded for a career-high 62 points Sunday night, carrying the Warriors to a win over the Trail Blazers and silencing critics everywhere.
🔥 Career-high 62 points for Steph Curry! 🔥
— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2021
After the game, Curry called on the legend of Jordan to silence his critics, “You know the Jordan meme, right? I take all that personally.”
Then he took to Instagram.
Curry was looking to attack from the opening tip Sunday, particularly going right at a quality defender in Robert Covington (who switched onto Curry off Draymond Green picks) and getting to the rim early. The Warriors also started screening for Curry with whichever big man was on the floor to force a switch and let Curry go at Jusuf Nurkic or the overmatched-on-defense Enes Kanter, both of whom struggled to slow Curry in space.
Curry scored 31 in the first half and for the game shot 18-of-31, including 8-of-16 from three. He made a statement, and the rest of the NBA noticed (and had his back).
62!!!! Stop playing w/ my guy!!
— andre (@andre) January 4, 2021
Steph heard Y'all huh?
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) January 4, 2021
Sheeeesh @StephenCurry30 🔥!! Welcome to the club big bro #62 🐐
— klay thompson (@KlayThompson) January 4, 2021
Curry had some help in this game, particularly Green playing fantastic defense and playing quarterback on that end, getting Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. in the right spots. Plays that had worked for Portland two nights earlier were blown up.
Curry may not be able to do this as often as he could five years ago, but he still can have games like this. He still has the gravity to draw defenders, he still makes plays. The Warriors aren’t winning because the talent around him is not the same as those championship years, the guys around him don’t know how to properly utilize the space he creates, but if you’re using that to criticize Curry you’re not much of a student of the game.
And Curry himself has 62 words for you.
2) Brooklyn has dropped 4-of-5 after loss to Washington. What happened to the early contenders?
Two games into the season, when the Nets crushed Boston on Christmas Day, a few of us were quick to anoint them contenders in the East. Kevin Durant was moving and shooting like he was never injured, Kyrie Irving was knocking down threes and showing off his elite handles, and the Nets had quality depth and role players.
That may have been premature. Brooklyn has lost 4-of-5 since, their defense has been dreadful, and it culminated on Sunday in a loss to a struggling Washington team where Irving and Durant missed clutch shots late.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant miss clean looks and the Nets fall to Wizards 123-122.
The Nets are now 3-4 for the season 👀pic.twitter.com/F7iYu6h1dg
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 4, 2021
What has happened to Brooklyn? Their defense has caught up with them. In the Nets’ last five games they have a defensive rating of 113.2 (points per 100 possessions), ranking 26th in the league. (Stats via Cleaning the Glass.)
That’s not the only issue in Brooklyn. The Nets have been weak on the glass, allowing opposing teams to get the offensive rebound on 30.7% of missed shots (third-worst in the league), leading to giving up 20.3 second-chance points a game. The Nets are also top 10 in the league at committing turnovers (or one of the 10 worst, if you want to look at it that way). Brooklyn had 20 turnovers in Sunday’s loss to Washington.
Their stars are putting up numbers — Irving had 30 points and 10 assists Sunday, Durant had 28 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists — but it is not translating to wins. After the game, coach Steve Nash said this about the recent struggles (via Nets Daily).
“It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it. We can’t get overly frustrated and can’t feel too much tension. There are a lot of good teams still trying to find themselves and we are new. We got a first-time head coach, a new staff, a bunch of guys that haven’t played together. With a short training camp, that made it difficult and here we are in a little struggle but it’s good for us. It’s good to get some tension, some uncomfortable, and got to get comfortable so here we are feeling a little uncomfortable and it can help us grow.”
The Nets are 1-3 on their current homestand, and it doesn’t get any easier with Utah and Philadelphia coming to town next.
3) Jayson Tatum hits game-winner for Boston in win over Detroit
Boston needed that. The Celtics had not looked like world-beaters out of the gate and were in danger of dropping a second game in a row to what had been a winless Pistons squad before Boston came to town.
But Tatum bailed then out when he pulled up from 16 feet and nailed a jumper with 2.9 seconds left Sunday, giving Boston a 122-120 win.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points — he shot 13-of-16 for the game — and hit a critical three late that set up the Tatum game-winner. It was redemption for Brown following a rough outing Friday in Boston’s loss to Detroit, including a late miss that sealed the loss.
The Celtics knew they needed that win.
“We haven’t been good, especially down the stretch, executing-wise,” Marcus Smart said postgame (he had 17 points on the night). “We got to our spots, we got the ball where we wanted it, and those two players made great shots and great reads. They won us the game.”
Now can Boston build on that in good road tests against Toronto and Miami coming up?