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NBA playoffs: Stephen Curry said he “will never lose confidence” in his shooting

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OAKLAND –- Warriors forward Kevin Durant kept shaking his head over what he saw and what he heard.
As he sat at an interview table behind a basket on the team’s practice court on Friday, Durant observed Warriors guard Stephen Curry swishing countless 3-pointers, jump shots and free-throws. As he sat on that interview table, though, Durant fielded countless inquiries on the state of Curry’s shooting.
“Put that to rest; he’s so good,” Durant said, shaking his head. “What are we even worried about?”
Well, there are a few things as the Warriors (1-1) enter Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets on Sunday at Oracle Arena.
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In the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to Houston on Wednesday, Curry posted only 16 points while shooting 7-of-19 from the field and 1-of-8 from 3-point range. In the Warriors’ Game 1 win over the Rockets, Curry went only 1-of-5 from 3-point range. Through both games, Curry has only a combined three free-throw attempts.
And with playing only six games since returning from a MCL injury in his left knee that previously sidelined him for 5 ½ weeks, even Curry’s head coach openly wondered if that has affected his play.
“That’s an underrated dynamic to this,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I think Steph’s healthy. He’s moving fine. But this is more rhythm than anything.”
Do not argue to Durant, though, that Curry still needs to build a rhythm.
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“I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all,” Durant said. “I don’t think anything is lingering from the injury. A couple of shots went in and out. He makes a couple of 3’s that are open, you’re talking about a different night.”
Instead, a different development played out after Friday’s practice. After he moved comfortably around the court during a shooting session, Curry addressed his left knee as quickly as he takes a shot.
“I feel great,” Curry said. “Hopefully that’s the last knee question.”
It was. Instead, Curry answered questions about his shooting. Curry stressed, “you never lose confidence in myself ever. That will never change.”
“I’m just waking up every day with optimism and confidence in myself with where I’m at. That’s all I can speak on,” Curry said. “There isn’t time to coast or ease your way into it, especially with the intensity and pressure and all that stuff. You have to be ready.”
How has Curry stayed ready? Simple.
Curry has done the same things he does when he’s in the middle of a shooting streak. Though he insisted his missed shots in Game 2 did not cause him to “lose any sleep over it,” Curry watched footage to analyze any mechanical issues. Curry then completed what he called “a pretty set routine” during Friday’s practice. During the end of that session that was open to the media, Curry worked with Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser. Then, Curry took shots from 3-point range, along the baseline, at the elbows and at the free-throw line.
As Curry completed his routine, Kerr observed Curry’s approach “reminds me of all the great shooters I’ve ever been around with”, including former NBA sharpshooters Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Mark Price.
“I got the utmost confidence in Steph. I have so much confidence in him,” Durant said. “It’s not pressure I’m putting on him. But as a team, we expect nothing but greatness from him.”
The Warriors also have become encouraged with Curry’s increased workload since returning in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against New Orleans. After playing 27 minutes off the bench in Game 2, Curry assumed his starting role with increased minutes in Game 3 (29 minutes), Game 4 (32 minutes) and Game 5 (37 minutes). After training for six days in between the Warriors’ playoff series, Curry has played slightly fewer minutes against Houston in Game 1 (35 minutes) and Game 2 (34).
Therefore, Kerr observed that Curry’s “conditioning is getting better and better.”
“I felt fresh out there and felt like I didn’t have to look at coach and say, ‘Get me out, I’m tired.’ That’s a positive,” Curry said. “The intensity of how I’m playing, I’m able to sustain that. That’s all I can ask for in that department. Now you just have to put together the total package. I think I’m really close to that.”
So close that the Warriors anticipate Curry’s shooting struggles will soon become dated.
“I feel really good about where Steph is and our ability to help him and help free him up,” Kerr said. “I want Steph shooting every time it’s open. We got to do a better job getting him open and we will.”
How so? Kerr did not divulge any details, but it does not sound like Curry feels like he needs many changes in the Warriors’ offense.
“I only need one [make]” Curry said. “That’s all I need.”
Only one made shot? Curry immediately backtracked.
“I don’t really need any. I have confidence in myself,” Curry said. “Teammates have confidence in me to do what I need to do. I never worry about it. I know how hard I work at it. It’s not a false sense of confidence. I know how hard I work at what I do.”
So does Curry’s teammates. As he marveled at Curry’s shooting routine, Durant continuously dismissed the repeated questions about Curry’s marksmanship for obvious reasons. As Durant noted, “I said way before you guys said it that he’s the greatest shooter that played this game.”
“I knew the next couple of days was going to be about Steph struggling to shoot the ball. But that’s the last thing I worry about. I just got so much confidence in him,” Durant said. “When Steph misses a shot, everybody gets up in arms about it. “That’s how great he is. Everybody expects him to make every single shot. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. But he continues to keep fighting.”
Durant then praised how Curry mastered other parts of his game against Houston despite his poor shooting. In Game 1, Curry posted eight assists, six rebounds and two steals. In Game 2, Curry added seven rebounds and seven assists. In both games, Curry willingly defended Rockets guard James Harden on isolation plays.
Curry faulted himself in Game 2 for being “indecisive” on either switching or playing man-to-man defense. Curry added he “wasn’t as aggressive.” Still, the Warriors value Curry’s ability to make shots instead of stopping others from making them.
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“I didn’t have to talk to any of ya’ll to wake up and know I didn’t play well in Game 2. That doesn’t change my outlook on the series or what I need to do,” Curry said. “If I don’t shoot the ball well – I’m going to – but if I don’t shoot the ball well in Game 3, it won’t change a thing on how I approach the next one. You come to the game with the right intentions and right approach. More times than not, it will work out in your favor.”
It has worked out in Curry’s favor plenty of other times.
Curry has never gone more than two consecutive games this season shooting below 50 percent. After shooting a combined 15-of-40 in Games 3 and 4 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City, Curry rebounded in Game 5 (31 points), Game  6 (31) and Game 7 (36).
After missing his first nine 3-point attempts in Game 4 of the 2016 Western Conference semifinals over Portland, Curry finished with 40 points on a 16-of-32 clip. Despite finishing with a combined 19-of-43 in Games 2 and 3 in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals against Memphis, Curry had 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting in Game 4.
Therefore, the Warriors anticipate another Curry breakout performance in Game 3. As Kerr mused, “Steph and Oracle, it’s a good combination.”
“It’s the Warriors at Oracle that feel different. We all love playing in front of our home crowd,” Curry said. “If you had a choice on where you wanted to play, you choose Oracle every day of the week.”
Subsequently, the Warriors often choose Curry every day of the week to take most of their shots. Most of the time, they go in the basket.
Follow Bay Area News Group Warriors beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram .

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