Slaying the League's Shooting Giant

The Suns will be trying to shut down Golden State's Stephen Curry Friday night at US Airways Center.
(NBAE/Getty Images)
When the Suns step onto the court Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, the first objective will be to defend Stephen Curry – a player Sports Illustrated dubbed this week as potentially the best shooter in the NBA and maybe even the history of the league.

Suns interim Head Coach Lindsey Hunter couldn't refute that sort of praise when asked about Curry following his team's shoot-around. The numbers just about back up the theory, anyway, considering the guard is the second-best three-point shooter in league history at 44.6 percent for his career.

“I can’t argue that he’s not,” Hunter said. “I’ve been a fan of the kid since Davidson, and I always thought he would be as good as he is. As a matter of fact, I’ve argued that before that draft.”

Undoubtedly, there were detractors of Curry’s game to take up Hunter’s argument prior to the 2009 draft - when Curry was selected seventh overall by Golden State.

Questions remained about the competition he played against at Davidson, about his size at 6-foot-3 and about which guard position he would play in the NBA.

What Hunter sees now is a player who overcame all of that to become one of the best shooters in the league, his team’s leading scorer and maybe even an MVP candidate this season.

“It’s refreshing having a young kid like that who’s not the prototypical athlete with the prototypical size,” Hunter said. “He’s just a skilled kid who’s worked at his craft. I think that’s a great model of using what you have to work with, and he does it to the maximum.

“It’s nice seeing him have success – hopefully, not tonight, though.”

All of those kind words had one reporter wondering if Hunter’s description wasn’t also a little bit of self-reflection on the coach’s own career arc when he was making his way in the NBA.

“I was wondering who was going to catch on to that,” the coach said.

Maybe since Hunter is so familiar with Curry’s mindset, he’ll be the coach best equipped with the knowledge to slow down the Warriors’ go-to guy.

Here are four other things to keep an eye on going into tonight’s 7 p.m. game against Golden State at US Airways Center:

  • Two More Self-Made Players

    As much as Curry has driven himself to learn the ropes in the league and make himself a solid NBA player, the same can be said for two power forwards featured in tonight’s game – Phoenix’s Luis Scola and David Lee for Golden State.

    Each has carved out roles in this league despite not having the entire package coming into the NBA.

    Lee, at 6-foot-9, always had athleticism but has added to his game with an unheralded toughness down low and craftiness on offense.

    Scola, meanwhile, showcases a good touch by effectively shooting mid-range jumpers while also finding a way to score with his back to the basket. He is the Suns’ second-leading scorer this season, and he also hasn’t missed a single game.

    “They do make a way and just figure out a way to get it done,” Hunter said. “They’ve worked so long and hard over the years perfecting their craft that they know that’s what being a pro is all about.”

  • Dragic’s Drive

    The third time was indeed a charm for Suns point guard Goran Dragic against these Warriors.

    In his first two games Dragic shot just 7-of-22 against Golden State, but he broke out of that trend the last time these two teams played.

    In a typically wonderful all-around performance, “The Dragon” went for 20 points, 10 assists, five steals and four assists - albeit in a loss to the Warriors on Feb. 20.

    More than anything, though, Dragic would like to finish the season series against this Pacific Division opponent with one victory.

  • Breaking the Streak

    Hunter’s reaction to the question was all that needed to be expressed.

    When asked if his team is desperate for a win to break the current six-game losing streak, Hunter couldn’t help but let out a chuckle and a sigh.

    The competitor in this coach won’t ease off as this season comes to close. In fact, he admitted that his drive to win doesn’t lighten in any situation.

    “I laugh at anyone who asks the question, ‘Oh, are you guys trying to lose?’” Hunter said. “I say, ‘Look, man, I’ve never tried to lose - at anything.’

    “If I’m playing against my wife, I’m not trying to lose. So we just don’t compete against each other.”

  • Slumping Second Option

    While Curry has consistently shot the ball extremely well, his backcourt mate has suddenly hit a skid.

    Second-year guard Klay Thompson has averaged 16.1 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting from three-point range this season, but in his last three contests a struggle has set in.

    Thompson has made just six of his last 30 shots and 2-of-14 from three.

    The Suns may just be facing him at the right time, especially considering the last time these two teams played Thompson led the Warriors to victory with a game-high 28 points.