Like characters on a late-night Western rerun, Golden State rides into town starring rapid-fire gunners Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, heard about but rarely seen because their TV show starts on cable near East Coast and Midwest bedtimes.
But the Warriors do share some similarities with the more familiar Heat, which plays host to Golden State on Thursday in its first game back from a West Coast swing. For one thing, they share the quality of uniqueness.
“They’re nicknamed The Splash Brothers for a reason,” the Heat’s LeBron James said. “We understand we can’t get down on ourselves defensively if they make a few.”
The numbers say they will hit seven or eight. The Warriors average 9.4 per game, tied for third most in the league going into Wednesday’s games, while the Heat averages allowing 6.3 per game.
At the other end, the Heat doesn’t exactly bring derringers to a shootout, hitting 8.4 threes per game.
“The way the two of them shoot the ball, their skill set and how quick their release is and how deep their range is … you don’t play that, really, ever against anybody else,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s a lot of things that when you face the Heat, teams have never seen. That’s true for them as well, just in a different way.”
Said Heat forward Shane Battier: “They play with tremendous freedom. Any defender will tell you, when you play against offensive players with tremendous freedom, any shot is a go at any time. It’s difficult. It doesn’t matter how many they miss. They’ll keep shooting and stay aggressive. You know you always have a live wire when you’re playing Curry and Thompson and the boys.”
Also, just as James improved his distance shooting and added a post game and Bosh improved his defense after coming to the Heat, Curry refuses to be just a scorer. In his fifth season in the league, he has increased his assists from 6.9 per game last year to 9.5 this year.
Curry’s averaging 22.9 points and 9.5 assists while shooting 40.9 from three-point range. You don’t have to go far back in NBA history to find the last time a player averaged 23.0 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 40 percent from three-point range: James, last season (26.8, 7.3, 40.6). He’s close to being on pace to do it again (25.5, 6.6, 41.5).
But it has only been done one other time: Larry Bird, in 1986-87 (28.1, 7.6, 40.0).
“He’s really been passing the ball well this year,” Bosh said of Curry. “And he’s deadly from outside, everybody knows that. They’re playing together. They’re moving the ball. They move the ball like we do. They have a lot of dangerous outside shooters and guys who just love to compete.”
• After taking Tuesday off, the Heat conducted a contact practice Wednesday. Everyone went through some part of practice, except for guard Dwyane Wade — he was “still a little bit stiff” according to Spoelstra — and his status, as usual this season, will be decided Thursday.