Curbing Stephen Curry and his 3-point prowess is job No. 1 for the Denver Nuggets.
Curry, a Charlotte native who starred at Davidson, leads the Golden State Warriors into the Pepsi Center for a first-round series starting Saturday that many consider the marquee matchup of the first round because it pits two exciting, high-octane teams that love to run.
Might as well dust off the old red, white and blue basketball from the old ABA as much as everyone’s expecting these two teams to get up and down the court.
While the Nuggets pile on points in the paint better than any team in the league, the Warriors do their damage from the fringe. They led the NBA with a 40.3 3-point percentage.
Curry, storming back from two years of ankle problems, shot his way into NBA history by sinking 272 3-pointers this season, three more than former record-holder Ray Allen had for Boston in 2005-06.
On Friday, he became the first Warriors player since Chris Mullen in November of 1990 to win Western Conference Player of the Month honors after averaging 25.4 points, 8.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.13 steals while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range in eight games in the month of April.
“It may be genetic,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, who coached Curry’s dad, Dell Curry, in the late 1990s in Milwaukee. “His dad was a great shooter, and it’s amazing, he probably is a better shooter.”
All the attention the younger Curry attracted this season freed up his backcourt mate, Klay Thompson, who sank 211 long-range baskets. That’s 483 between them, the most by any duo in league history.
The Nuggets will send a wave of defenders at Curry to cool his hot hand, including Ty Lawson starting out and including healthy doses of Andre Iguodala, their best perimeter defender.
“You’ve just got to be aware of where the shooters are,” Iguodala said. “Good defense can be beat sometimes by 3-point shooters. But if you play the percentages, make them take tough shots, contest the shots, the percentages kind of fall toward the defense.”
Lawson said he wants to force Curry to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop to keep him from finding any rhythm.
Curry was a cumulative 16-for-25 from long-range against the Nuggets this season.
Curry, who led Davidson to two NCAA tournament berths, has a history of rising to the challenge in big games, including a career-best 54-point game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27, when he sank 11 3s.
“For me, it’s about consistency and how you approach the big game,” Curry said.