Stephen Curry may have picked up a few MVP votes Wednesday night.
Sidelined with a bruised left lower leg, Curry could only watch in street clothes as the Warriors fell flat as a Texas prairie in taking a 114-91 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The Warriors lacked rhythm and flow on offense, particularly in the first half, when they scratched out a season-low 42 points. Without Curry at the wheel of the league’s best offense, the unit seemed lost, adrift without a compass.
Interim Warriors coach Luke Walton and the staff design game plans around the Curry Effect, and players like Draymond Green and Klay Thompson usually are able to exploit defenses that routinely overcommit in trying to contain the reigning MVP.
The Mavericks were able to avoid that predicament.
“We don’t have to recreate our whole offense,” Green said of Curry’s absence. “But some things definitely change.
“He’s one of the rare players in this league where it affects the entire game just by being on the court,” Walton said of Curry. “We run our offense because we know that (to a degree). We have spacing and we have role players that complement each other nicely. Without him out there the spacing won’t be as good.”
The casualties were the games of Thompson and Green, who without Curry never got comfortable.
Thompson scored 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting. He forced the action a bit too much and he also saw double teams that he usually does not. That’s the Curry Effect. Green, who also scored 11 points, on 4-of-15 shooting, leads the Warriors in assists largely because of the Curry Effect. Green, who plays so well off the point guard, rang up only four assists as the Warriors had a season-low-tying 20 helpers.
“That’s 30 points and a playmaker gone,” said Thompson.
“It’s 30 points out of the lineup,” noted Green, “and it’s really more than that when you consider the assists and the attention that has to be paid to him on the floor.”
It’s not just Curry, replaced by Shaun Livingston, who was absent. Forward Harrison Barnes (sprained ankle) and guard Leandro Barbosa (sprained shoulder) are not on the trip. Backup center Festus Ezeli was ruled out Wednesday morning with a sore left big toe. Four of the team’s first nine players were unavailable.
The loss of Curry so disrupted the offense that it may have led to the numerous defensives lapses that Dallas milked for 60 first-half points en route to 51.2-percent shooting, including 51.9-percent shooting from beyond the arc.
“We’re missing some key guys,” Walton said, “but we’re still confident in the group that we have and offensively we’ll find a groove if we have to continue with these guys being out. Our biggest concern and biggest improvement will be on defense.”
The Warriors (29-2), quite frankly, looked like a team in trouble from the start. They played hard but not together. Trailing by as much as 30 and being outscored 46-26 in the paint they never, ever looked comfortable.
“We just have to collectively try to chip in, if it’s on the defensive end or offensively,” Thompson said. “Move the ball and trust each other.”
Coached by one of the best in the league, Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks (19-13) were primed to take advantage of every Warriors shortcoming. The moved the ball on offense to get open shots, and they focused their defense on Thompson and Green, forcing them into tough decisions.
Nobody was able to help the Warriors break out.
“We’ve got to be better, defensively and offensively,” Green said. “Who knows how long Steph will be out? We can’t just lose games because he’s out. We’ve got to make it work.”