Over the years, the Golden State Warriors have been more dependent on Stephen Curry than the whole "Strength in Numbers" mantra would suggest. Even during the Kevin Durant super years, there were two decidedly different Warriors teams: With and without Curry.
Well, they're going to be without Curry for these next few weeks, and they don't have a lot of room for error as they battle not just to rise above the play-in line in a jam-packed Western Conference but to not fall into the lottery, which is an actual possibility.
In their first full game without Curry, since he went down with a left knee injury, the Warriors caught fire from 3 and looked about as good as they have all season in a 141-114 win over the visiting Thunder. This after the Warriors finished off a win over Dallas in the game in which Curry was injured.
It continues with a pleasantly surprising theme this season: Golden State has been OK without Curry. It has gone 8-8 overall in the 16 games he's missed and 7-2 in the last nine.
On Monday, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson led the way as the Warriors connected on 26 3-pointers, just one off the franchise record. Thompson accounted for 12 by himself, two off his single-game NBA record of 14. He needed just 16 attempts. A 75-percent clip. Not bad.
It's the ninth time in Thompson's career that he's made at least 10 3s in a game, which would also be an NBA record if not for Curry, who has done it 22 times. Curry and Thompson are the only players in history that have recorded multiple games with at least 12 3-pointers (they've each done it twice).
Thompson's craziest stat of the night? He didn't attempt a single free throw. His 42 points are the most in the league this season without a free throw, topping Donovan Mitchell's 38 against the Knicks in October.
That's not a stat the Warriors will be pleased with, as impressive as it is to do that much damage on jump shots. No team in the league attempts fewer free throws than the Warriors, who attempted just seven on Monday, and even some of those were in garbage time.
Thompson has never been a big free-throw guy. He hardly gets to the rim or even into the lane. Frankly, I'm not sure you want him dribbling more than necessary. Still, it's a tough hill to climb for the Warriors, who not only shoot the fewest free throws but give up the most on the other end.
It's not likely to change. They just have to make a lot of shots to overcome the discrepancy.
But back to the positives: Poole was magnificent. For one night, he was absolutely Steph-like. He killed the Thunder as a creator, registering a career-high 12 assists. This sprint and kick to Thompson was a work of art:
11 THREES FOR KLAY THOMPSON 🤯— NBA (@NBA) February 7, 2023
🎯: 39 PTS, 11 3PM
WATCH: https://t.co/1pomQZMAZK pic.twitter.com/GGJUJ4BHWn
Here Poole attacks the vacant side of the rim, forcing Josh Giddey to rotate over, before dropping a bounce pass to the subsequently vacated Andrew Wiggins for the gimme deuce.
With 11 assists, Jordan Poole has tied his career high 👀— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 7, 2023
📺 @NBCSAuthentic pic.twitter.com/DXCoAHNn63
Then, just when it looked like it might be a relatively quiet scoring night for Poole, he started hunting his own shot, winding up with five 3-pointers and 21 points in a masterfully skilled and patient performance. That's such a Curry thing. A quiet shooting night turned nuclear in the blink of an eye.
Poole and Thompson aren't going to play like this every night, obviously. But if they can catch a hot streak over this next week and a half to buoy the Warriors heading into the All-Star break, man, what a lift it would be with every being so important at this stage.
Next up is Portland on Wednesday.