NBA

NBA Big Game Focus: Curry and Warriors seek statement of intent against Clippers

By Sports Desk January 06, 2021

Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors team-mates have been playing with extra spice over the past week.

Questionable puns aside, the sight of a fit and firing Curry is certainly no laughing matter for defences across the NBA.

A golden era for the Warriors saw Steve Kerr's team reach the NBA Finals in five seasons running from 2015 to 2019, with Curry and the rest of a star-studded roster winning the title three times.

But a 2019-2020 season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic was one of injury woe and transition for a Warriors side that finished bottom of the Western Conference (15-50), while they were a world away from playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando where the end of the regular season and the entire postseason was played.

The departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala hit the Warriors after Klay Thompson had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Curry managed just five games in an injury-hit campaign.

However, after losing their opening two games this season, the Warriors have won four of the past five and welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Wednesday with a 4-3 record – with Curry starring in wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

Five of the Warriors' next seven games come against teams with a .500 record or better, including a double-header versus the Clippers, and there is much intrigue as to whether Kerr's men can be a sustained threat this season.

TOP PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry

Curry and the Warriors were certainly not firing on all cylinders in defeats to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks to start the season – although his 20 and 19 points respectively were a team high.

Only one defeat has followed since then, though, and 32-year-old Curry has provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality including a barnstorming showing in defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 137-122 on Monday.

Curry sank a career-high 62 points in that game, as well as offering five rebounds and four assists, before following up with 30 against the Kings (nine rebounds, eight assists).

Consequently, the outlook for the Warriors and Curry himself looks a lot healthier. In the early throes of this season, he has averaged 32.0 points - second-most in the league - while his player efficiency rating (PER) ranks third.

His 32.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for 2020-21 are outperforming his career averages for the regular season (23.6 and 4.5), while his 6.4 for assists is only slightly lower (6.6).

A 36.9 per cent success rate from three-point range is way down on the 43.4 overall in his career, yet he was at 50.0 and 41.7 per cent in this metric over the Warriors' past two wins.

Golden State may need to find more assistance for Curry, though. The return to action of Draymond Green has allowed his superstar team-mate more space on the floor, but Andrew Wiggins (17.6) and rookie James Wiseman (11.4) are the side's next-highest average scorers. Without Thompson, the Warriors need a little more from their supporting cast.

TOP PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers - Kawhi Leonard

Much was expected of a Clippers side that combined star-studded duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the 2019-20 season.

But the Clippers surrendered a 3-1 lead to lose their Western Conference semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets last season and it has been a mixed bag thus far.

Defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday left the Clippers at 5-3, and the Warriors might have to beware the wounded animal if they are to make a statement of their intent.

George missed that game due to ankle soreness, with Leonard putting up 30 points and 10 assists in the losing effort.

George leads the way for average points (25.1) for the Clippers this season, but Leonard (23.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists) is typically impressing across the board.

The efforts of Leonard are going to be particularly crucial if George, whose injury status is day-to-day, fails to make it against the Warriors.

KEY BATTLE: CAN BEVERLEY CONTAIN CURRY?

The best offensive point guard in Curry comes up against one of the league's best defensive point guards in Patrick Beverley. 

Beverley was on it against Spurs, contributing 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, along with two blocks, and it will be his job to be a nuisance against Curry.

If Beverley, a man with a penchant for trash talking, can keep Curry quiet then it is hard to imagine the Warriors will have the scoring power to take down the Clippers.

That being said, if Curry gains the upper hand in this battle of the guards then the Warriors can make a huge statement about their credentials this season.

HEAD TO HEAD

It was a clean sweep for the Clippers in the three games they played against the Warriors in 2019-20.

The most recent of those matchups was way back on March 10, though – a game in which Leonard put up 23 points in a 131-107 rout of the Warriors.

History is with the Warriors overall, with Golden State triumphing in 131 games to the Clippers' 90 from the 221 occasions on which the teams have faced off in the NBA's regular season.

Related items

  • St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists St. Louis City v Colorado Rapids: Carnell desperate for response as winless run persists

    St. Louis City will be desperate to snap a record six-game winless run in MLS when they host Colorado Rapids at CityPark Stadium on Thursday.

    The Missouri-based side have just three wins from their 17 league matches this term, falling down to 11th in the Western Conference standings.

    Bradley Carnell's men have not triumphed in MLS action since a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire in the middle of May, and were defeated 2-0 by FC Dallas last time out.

    St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

    "Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the roster and see where we are. We're not the first team to struggle with this.

    "Now we get challenged and now get to prove what we are as a group, team, organisation and unit – sticking together.

    "We have a plethora of young players who are performing [for our academy] and we will keep some of those guys with us through the week."

    The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

    That ended a four-game winless streak for Colorado, who secured a much-needed victory after a rocketed finish from Cole Bassett before Rafael Navarro netted his 10th goal of the season.

    The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    St. Louis City – Jared Stroud

    Jared Stroud was involved in a goal in both matches (one goal, one assist) against the Rapids last season.

    The St. Louis man has eight assists to his name in MLS this season, too, and will hope to deliver once more when Colorado come to town.

    Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

    Djordje Mihailovic has scored in each of the Rapids' last three away matches.

    He is the first Rapids player to score in three straight away from home in a single regular season since Shkelzen Gashi scored in five straight on the road from June-October 2016.

    MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS CITY WIN

    St. Louis are the heavy favourites for victory in this encounter, considering their record against the Rapids.

    Carnell's side collected four points from their two matches against Colorado last season, including a 2-0 win at home last July.

    Colorado have lost their last three road matches, conceding 10 goals in those games, and that run of form comes as no surprise.

    Indeed, the Rapids have lost 15 of their last 21 away from home in all competitions (W3 D3), dating back to last May.

    Yet a home win is by no means a foregone conclusion.

    St. Louis are winless in six straight matches (D2 L4) for the first time in club history. They have just three wins so far, tied for the fewest in MLS this season, though all three have come at home.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    St. Louis City win – 48.8%

    Colorado Rapids win – 25.5%

    Draw – 25.7%

  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive appearance for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a loose ball to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded strike, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's half-cleared left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Seleaco on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Seleaco on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive start for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a rebound to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded finish, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.