Golden State finally needed Stephen Curry on the court in the fourth quarter and he delivered on both ends of the court.
Fifteen of Curry’s 44 points came in the final 12 minutes of Saturday’s game in Toronto, but the Warriors didn’t clinch their 21st consecutive win to open the season until he made a critical defensive play in the final seconds of the contest.
As Golden State continually fed the ball to Curry so the league’s leading free throw shooter could have the ball in his hands while the Raptors were intentionally fouling, his awareness following a trip to the foul line preserved the longest winning streak in any major professional sport to open a season.
A pair of free throws from Curry extended the Warriors advantage to 112-109 with five seconds remaining. Off the inbound pass, Curry deflected the ball out of the hands of Cory Joseph and as he tried to regain possession, he knocked it out of bounds.
The turnover ensured Curry’s seventh 40-point effort of the season once again resulted in a Golden State victory.
Once again, from anywhere on the floor there was no stopping the 27-year-old guard.
Curry connected on 9-of-15 shots from 3-point range on the night, giving him 111 made 3-pointers on the season and increasing his percentage to 46.8 from beyond the arc.
The 40 point performance was the second of the week for Curry, but he needed just three quarters in Charlotte to reach the lofty total.
The combination of Curry’s excellent shooting and the Warriors penchant for putting teams away early has enabled the coaching staff to rest the All-Star point guard for the entire fourth quarter six times this year.
Even with 72 minutes lost to rest in the fourth quarter, Curry is the league’s leading scorer at 32.6 points per game while averaging 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Golden State has won the first three games during a seven game road trip as Curry has poured in 110 points on just 62 shot attempts.
The league has yet to find a solution for the Warriors and Curry’s historic long range shooting pace doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon.
Biggest Surprise: Ryan Anderson– New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans survived a furious fourth quarter comeback from LeBron James in overtime as several members of the team made significant contributions. In over 31 minutes off the bench, Anderson tallied 18 points, five rebounds and a block. The performance capped a week that saw Anderson post 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and connected seven times from 3-point range over his last three games, greatly exceeding the production level associated with ninth round selections in fantasy basketball.
Biggest Disappointment: Danny Green– San Antonio Spurs
Green hasn’t hit double digits in scoring in each of his last seven games and has managed a total of just 15 in his last four appearances. Nearly every major fantasy category has taken a significant drop for Green compared to his production from a year ago, as his scoring, steals and block averages have all declined while his shooting average stands at 32.1 percent from the field and he is connecting on just 28.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Pick ’em Up: Allen Crabbe– Portland Trail Blazers
Very quietly, Crabbe is submitting one of the most efficient shooting seasons in the league. The 6-foot-6 guard is shooting 49.4 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point range and 88.9 percent at the free throw line. The effective shooting has been accompanied by the best scoring stretch of his three-year career this week, as he set and matched his career-high in points, posting 18 points in consecutive games. Crabbe has even connected from 3-point range in each of his last 12 appearances and has knocked down 25-of-55 attempts from beyond the arc on the year.
Put ’em Down: Mirza Teletovic– Phoenix Suns
For 15 consecutive games, Teletovic was providing the Suns with plenty of long range shooting, as the 6-foot-9 forward connected at least once from 3-point range in that span. Teletovic proved to be especially potent when given an additional opportunity in the absence of Markieef Morris, averaging 15 points and four made shots from 3-point range in a four game span. Once Morris returned from a knee injury Friday night, Teletovic spent just seven minutes on the floor against Washington, missing each of his three attempts from the field.
Injury Watch: Chris Paul– Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers won a third straight game Monday against Portland, but suffered a huge setback in the process. Paul exited the game in the third quarter after suffering a strained rib muscle, an injury that forced him to sit out the last two games, including Saturday’s game against the Magic. The injury ins’t expected to keep him out much longer, but the eight-time All-Star missed three games earlier in the year with a strained right groin. A year ago, Paul played in all 82 games for the first time in his 11-year career.
Stat of the Week: Andre Drummond– Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee became the latest team that simply couldn’t box out Drummond Friday night, surrendering 23 rebounds to the 6-foot-10 center. The performance increased his rebounding average to 17 per game on the season, an average no player has achieved in 22 seasons. This year, Drummond has tallied five games with at least 20 rebounds, as he posted 20 against Chicago, 29 against the Pacers, 27 in Portland, then 20 against the Heat. The rest of the NBA combined has just three 20 rebound performances this season.