Warriors welcome Steph Curry back with newfound confidence on D

Kevin Durant, right, doesn't think it'll take too long for the Warriors to adjust to having Steph Curry back. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors learned that without Stephen Curry, their offense is a shell of its usual self. However, on the defensive end, they've learned they can be unstoppable.

"I figured guys would step it up and try to fill the void, even though it's a different group, a different style of play," Kevin Durant said. "But I think our defense went to another level, and it's something we can try to stick to, especially with Steph coming back. You know he's been out for so long and we'll have to knuckle down even more on the defensive side of the ball until he gets his legs up under him a little bit. I'm expecting that to take about a quarter. We'll be fine after that. But for the most part, guys just got an opportunity to play. We've seen different lineups, different schemes, different ways to play, and I think it will only make us better as a group moving forward."

Curry will make his return from a right-ankle sprain Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Before the two-time MVP went down Dec. 4 in New Orleans, the Warriors were the top 3-point percentage team in the league by a healthy margin, at 40.3 percent. Currently, they're tied with the Indiana Pacers at 38.5 percent. During the stretch Curry was out (since Dec. 5), they were 28th in the league at 33.6 percent.

But that wasn't the extent of the Warriors' struggles without their shooting specialist. The offensive rating went from first (114.6) to 17th (105.9), and pace fell from fifth (103.94) to 11th (98.94).

However, their defensive metrics skyrocketed, from seventh in defensive rating (101.7) to a league-best 98.7 in that span. Golden State went 9-2.

"It will be a little different [with Curry back]," coach Steve Kerr said, "but I think the attention to detail defensively has been good in part because we knew without Steph, we weren't going to have that [offensive] explosiveness game in and game out."

The Warriors reinvented themselves on the fly, something Kerr is proud of.

"I learned how competitive they are," Kerr said. "Maybe it was reaffirmed. Our guys have a lot of pride and they compete. They want to win. They did not want to be embarrassed. They wanted to prove that they could win without Steph and they've done a hell of a job."

Shaun Livingston, who started five of the past 11 games at point guard, didn't mince words about what he thought the team was capable of with Curry in street clothes.

"I think what we've been able to accomplish has been expected, to be honest with you," he said. "For us as players, we believe in ourselves, we believe in our games. We obviously have other great players. Him going down causes a void, and I think as a team and as a coaching staff, we've been able to shore up some of those holes. Not necessarily shooting, but as far as executing, getting the job done and getting the wins."

Livingston had an interesting analogy for what Curry brings back to the table.

"It's like having a nuclear missile for a country because he can go off at any time," Livingston said. "The nuke. It may not be politically correct."

Durant's offensive numbers haven't been as efficient due to the constant traps and doubles he has seen with Curry out. To say he's pleased reinforcement is on the way would be an understatement.

Durant can't wait for Curry to add some more zest to Golden State's offensive game.

"I'm very excited, man," Durant said. "He's our leader, he's our point guard, he kind of runs the show out there. We've definitely been missing him and we have so many quick scoring spurts because of his movement, his 3-point shooting, his ballhandling, his vision. So, we're going to definitely be a different team when he comes back."