It’s time for the Golden State Warriors to live up to their name, and that includes Stephen Curry
Following Tuesday’s rough and tumble Game 5, Warriors cead coach Mark Jackson complained that the Denver Nuggets had sent out ‘hit men’ to target Stephen Curry’s fragile ankles, citing an illegal screen Denver big man Kenneth Faried set on the diminutive guard. Later, Kosta Koufos managed to get under Curry’s skin when he hit him in the wrist on a shot after the whistle. Curry pushed back, and the referees called technical fouls on both players.
Are these cheap shots? Is Curry ‘soft’, as some reports claim the Nuggets say? The only thing that’s certain is that the Nuggets successfully defended Golden State’s golden boy for the first time on Tuesday, and they got the result the wanted.
Curry shot just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc and was held to only 15 points. Andre Igoudala was particularly effective (definitely more so than Andre Miller, who had been tasked with defending Curry during his explosive third quarter in Game Four), basically halting the Warriors’ fourth quarter run when he re-entered the game in the final minutes.
To make things even more difficult, Denver big men – who looked energized after being embarrassed in Oakland – kept Curry and the Warriors backcourt out of the lanes, holding Golden State to just 24 points in the paint (compared to 48 in the previous game).
As much as I hate it when writers psychoanalyze athletes they haven’t spoken to, the Nuggets newfound toughness clearly frustrated Curry, enough so that the normally cool-headed guard even got into with a fan walking through the tunnel after the game.
Curry’s reaction shouldn’t come at a surprise. He’s a young player experiencing playoff basketball for the first time, and this series certainly has been rougher than most. But he should have had a better sense of what to expect going into Game 5. After all, it was a must win game for the Nuggets.
The Warriors have delivered their fair share of cheap shots as well. Draymond Green forced JaVale McGee to leave Game 3 after the backup forward grabbed McGee’s shoulder as he drove the lane. And who could forget the deadly screen Andrew Bogut set on Andre Igoudala, which floored the athletic forward and sent him hobbling toward the sideline.
“I think I’ve taken the hardest hit in the series, Game 1 or 2, when [Andrew] Bogut leaned in to me on a screen. And I didn’t remember what happened the rest of the game,” Iguodala told ESPN. “I think they kind of brought the physicality to the series. And we stopped being the receivers and we’re starting to hit back a little bit.”
Cheap shots and dirty tricks have always been an important part of playoff basketball. It remains to be seen whether Stephen Curry and Golden State are mature enough to handle it.