A new generation has infiltrated the NBA as teams around the league are loaded with young talent that will eventually take over. Guys like Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, Ja Morant, LaMelo Ball, Zion Williamson, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will soon be the faces of the league. The story of this season though is a pair of 33-year olds that have more in common than many people realize.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant may look vastly different standing next to one another. One guy is nearly a foot taller than the other, but that is essentially where their differences end. In addition to being the same age, both were selected early in the draft after being elite stars in college. Their individual accolades are quite similar too.
Between the two of them, they account for 18 All-Star appearances, 16 All-NBA selections, six scoring titles, three MVP awards, five championships, and both were recently named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
For three seasons these two were teammates, which is still quite mesmerizing to think about. The level of talent that those Golden State Warriors teams had was arguably better than some All-Star teams of the past. It wasn’t really fair, considering that these two are arguably the greatest offensive players the league has ever seen. Both are unstoppable in their own right, spreading the floor and being willing passers.
Another common thread that these two elite players share is their ability to carry a team. The focal point of every opposing team, they still manage to find a way to score, and score often. Durant nearly single-handedly took the Nets to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, after making a sensational comeback from a devastating injury the year prior, his final season in Golden State.
Curry was the lone man standing on a depleted Warriors roster last season but still managed the lead the league in scoring once again at 32 points per game, despite having a target on his back every night. Both are extremely talented and a ton of fun to watch. Their particular playing style lends itself to beautiful basketball.
After three memorable years as teammates, the two will square off again tonight in Brooklyn. Both teams are clearly title contenders as they sit at the top of their respective conferences. They are doing all of this despite missing their wingmen. The Warriors are still waiting for Klay Thompson to return, and the Nets have had an out-of-shape James Harden and Kyrie Irving may not play at all this season.
While it is a regular-season game in November, there is plenty on the line tonight when these two meet. Both Curry and Durant are considered frontrunners to win another MVP award this year. As a potential Finals preview, this game could very well factor into homecourt advantage. Oh, there are also bragging rights, although they may not be willing to admit it publicly.
Kevin Durant isn’t buying into the hype of Warriors-Nets on Tuesday:
“It’s a regular season game. We obviously want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd, but we’re not gonna put too much pressure on ourselves and call this a Finals matchup” pic.twitter.com/edo0QscHRL
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) November 15, 2021
Durant and Curry often speak to the fact that they may no longer be teammates, but they will always remain brothers. While brothers have a special bond, they also have their fights. While it certainly won’t be physical, these two individuals are incredibly competitive and will stop at nothing to get the victory Tuesday night. The two teamed up for three straight Finals runs and took home a pair of championships. They are both still thriving, just no longer as teammates.
Both teams are red hot heading into tonight’s showdown. The Nets just finished up with a six-game road trip, and have won eight of their last nine games. The Warriors arrived in Brooklyn with the league’s best record at 12-2 after suffering their first loss in regulation on Sunday night in Charlotte.
Curry himself has had quite a week, scoring 50 points and dishing 10 assists on Monday against the Hawks, then dropping his third 40-point game on Friday against the Bulls. In that game against Chicago, he passed Ray Allen to become the all-time leader in three-point field goals made. He pushed his career total to 2,896 after nailing nine of them in that game. Curry didn’t just break the record, he did so in 585 fewer games than Allen, which equates to more than seven full seasons.
Stephen Curry has a 50-ball and a 40-point game in his last three, and he still isn’t averaging as many points as Kevin Durant. Shooting 13% lower from the field and 3% lower from 3 as well. And Steph has been flat out incredible. Just goes to show how quietly great KD has been.
— Jake (@JakeAndHoops) November 14, 2021
While these two teams are on opposite sides of the country, they are actually quite similar. In terms of offensive efficiency, both rank inside the top ten. In defensive efficiency, they rank 1st and 4th in the league. Looking at true shooting percentage, they rank 1st and 3rd. They also rank 1st and 3rd in effective field goal percentage. While both teams are in the bottom five in turnovers, they rank 1st and 4th in assists per game.
Brooklyn had a much slower start this season, mostly because of the status of Irving and the poor play by Harden. The good news is he appears to be regaining his form after working on his conditioning and adapting to the new rule changes. The Warriors came out blazing, much of that thanks to their retooled roster. Jordan Poole has been a tremendous fill-in for Thompson, but they have been leaning heavily on their depth this season.
Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica have been pleasant surprises but a healthy Draymond Green, the continued development of Andrew Wiggins, and the return of Andre Iguodala have been vital to their success. They will only get better when Thompson and James Wiseman return, and who knows what will become of their talented rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. A move at the trade deadline is always possible with this organization.
The Nets themselves had some solid additions this year, from Patty Mills to Paul Millsap and DeAndre’ Bembry. LaMarcus Aldridge coming out of retirement has been a big boost to their mid-range game, where they rank near the top of the league. They have a sensational rookie as well in Cam Thomas that could see some time on the floor this season.
As deep as both teams are, they will go as far as their superstars can take them. The Player Efficiency Rating for Curry and Durant are top-five in the league and the two rank 1st (Durant( and 2nd (Curry) in scoring. Both were named Conference Players of the Week yesterday by the league.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant have been named the NBA Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for Week 4 of the 2021-22 season (Nov. 8 – Nov. 14). pic.twitter.com/lYjrTHf0BP
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 15, 2021
It is important for Steve Nash and Steve Kerr to utilize their stars when they need to, but not to burn them out early in the season. “That’s the luxury of All-Star players, that they can do that. Kevin’s obviously elite at scoring and isolating, and there are times when we lean on him. But it’s important for our team that we don’t overburden him,” said Nash.
Kerr was asked about facing his former player on Tuesday. “I think we all expected him to come back and play at a high level, he’s just so skilled at that size. He’s one of the best players in the game, and he means a lot to our franchise. Obviously, two Finals MVPs and helped hang a couple of banners and we had some great years so we’re all thrilled for Kevin that he’s healthy and playing at such a high level.”
The key for every title contender is obviously health. There are too many examples of this over the years to even count on one hand, including last season with Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), and even this Nets team with Irving and Harden. Nobody can be sure what Thompson will look like when he returns. No one even knows if Irving will play basketball at all this year.
While there are important questions that remain unanswered for both teams, as long as Brooklyn and Golden State have their star players on the floor, they will always have a shot. As two of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport, that is all they want.