BY JANIE McCAULEY
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry pumped his fists and flexed his biceps. He dangled that signature mouthpiece from his teeth in sheer delight.
Oh, and he knocked down some of those familiar way-back 3-pointers, too.
Yes, Golden State’s sharp-shooting star is feeling it again, and he’s proud to be, in his words, “that presence that kind of gets us going.”
In a 32-point, nine-assist performance against Denver on Monday, Curry wound up 9 for 17 overall while making 5 of 10 3-pointers. But he’s a menace for opposing defenses even without his best shot.
Curry’s mere existence on the court makes every Warrior better. Teammate Draymond Green shot 42.1 percent from the field while Curry missed 11 games with a sprained right ankle. In the five games since Curry’s return, Green has hit 55.6 percent. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have also shot better since Curry came back.
“That’s why he’s a two-time MVP in this league, that’s why we have two championships,” Green said. “He’s become the superstar that he has even on a night where it wasn’t quite his night, he filled the stat sheet up like that and impacted the game. Even if he didn’t have 32 points and nine assists, what he brings to our offense and all the attention that he draws that gets me open shots … he creates a lot of mismatches on the floor for the defense.”
The reigning Western Conference player of the week, Curry has scored 29 or more points in seven straight games. He’s gone over 30 points in six of those seven games and 12 times overall this season.
He’s been practically unstoppable since returning from injury, averaging 35.2 points over that span as well as 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 32.4 minutes. Curry also has four or more 3-pointers in seven straight games.
The Warriors have needed his steady hand with playmaking sidekick and Finals MVP Kevin Durant sitting out the past three games with a strained right calf. Durant is expected back for Wednesday’s home game against the Clippers.
Curry also had six turnovers Monday night, so coach Steve Kerr hardly considered it one of his star’s best games.
That’s fine with Curry.
“Every game’s not going to be pretty. I love being held to that high standard. That’s what kind of keeps me motivated,” he said. “When you can look at that line and find things that I can do better, which nobody needs to tell me that I already know.”
The good news is Curry’s footwork hasn’t been hampered by the ankle injury. It’s something David West and Green respect in particular, even if it’s not the showiest talent for the shoot-from-anywhere point guard.
“I think people get caught up in the flashy stuff, but his footwork is incredible,” West said. “I think that’s the one thing that kind of gets lost in it. If you’re a basketball person you understand that footwork is sort of the foundation. I don’t think we’ve seen the type of footwork he has. He gets his feet set on every single shot, he’s never out of range.”
Curry works hard on that footwork in the offseason. It’s what allows him to have such a quick release, even if he’s catching the ball on the move or with his body facing half-court.
“If you’ve got slow feet or shaky balance, it throws your rhythm off and your consistency,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I have like wide-receiver feet, where they’ve got the quick jabs and they can change direction up like that. I just feel like I’m always in balance, and that’s what helps me get my shot off quick and stay in a solid rhythm through my shot and be able to handle the ball and try to be creative.”
Curry will try to dazzle again Wednesday night for the Warriors, who look to extend their winning streak to six games.
“He’s fast with the ball but he’s not the fastest guy in the world. He’s pretty strong but he’s not the strongest guy in the world, but his footwork is so good that for what speed he may not have, it makes him way faster because of how good his footwork is,” Green said. “He’s probably faster than someone that may be faster than him because he kind of dances. He should go on Dancing with the Stars.”
Curry chuckled about that idea. Alas, he loves his day job, and his first choice for a second career would be as part owner for his hometown Carolina Panthers.
“I will not take Draymond’s advice and go on Dancing with the Stars,” he said. “I’ll just keep shooting jump shots.”
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