Fun disappears from Warriors' game with Curry out

DALLAS -- As if Stephen Curry's performance hasn't been impressive enough, his absence illustrated just how valuable the NBA's reigning MVP is to the best team in basketball.

The Golden State Warriors, the greatest show in sports, aren't a whole lot of fun to watch when Curry wears street clothes and watches from the bench.

Granted, Curry wasn't the only key piece the Warriors had to do without during their second loss of the season, a 114-91 spanking by the hot hands of the Dallas Mavericks. Golden State didn't have three other key rotation players: small forward Harrison Barnes, backup center Festus Ezeli and reserve guard Leandro Barbosa.

But Curry was the reason many fans paid 10 times face value to get a seat in the sold-out American Airlines Center. And he has been the biggest factor in the 29-2 defending champions' historically spectacular start.

Curry is such a revolutionary force that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle compared his potential influence on basketball to Steve Jobs' impact on technology. Take that guy out of the mix and the geometry of the game completely changes for Golden State.

"He's one of the rare players in this league that affects the entire game just by being on the court," Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said. "We run our offense because we know that in a certain manner, and we have spacing and we have role players that complement each other nicely. Obviously without him out there, the spacing won't be as good, the drags that we like doing so much aren't as effective.

"Pretty much everything we do gets affected by a player like that, but we're confident that even while he's out, we should still be able to compete better than that and win ballgames."

The first sample of Golden State minus the MVP was abysmal, with the Mavs leading by as many as 30 points. But the fact the Warriors are a totally different team without Curry doesn't quite qualify as breaking news. Golden State has outscored opponents by 482 points during Curry's 1,043 minutes this season and been outscored by 101 in the 460 minutes he has been off the floor.

The Warriors, who headed for Houston after the loss hoping to start another winning streak the next night, don't know how long they'll be without Curry. Golden State is listing him as day-to-day after an MRI revealed a bruise but no structural damage in his lower left leg.

In the interim, the Warriors aren't willing to simply settle for the excuse of missing the MVP.

"We can't just lose games because he's out," said Draymond Green, whose 4-of-15 shooting night matched fellow All-Star candidate Klay Thompson. "We've got to make it work."

The Warriors might have to make it work without Curry, who possesses the most potent blend of shooting and ballhandling the league has ever seen, forcing defenses to find him the moment he crosses half court. They might have to find ways to create open looks without Curry stretching defenses far beyond the 3-point arc and wrecking rotations with his drives down the lane.

It's not just about replacing Curry's league-leading 30.5 points and his 6.4 assists. He means much more to the Warriors than even his phenomenal stats indicate.

Curry's presence enhances the playmaking ability of Green, a power forward who ranks among the league leaders in assists largely because he feasts on 4-on-3 opportunities caused by defenses trapping to force the ball out of the All-NBA point guard's hands on pick-and-rolls. Thompson arguably benefits even more from playing with Curry, shooting 49 percent from the field while running with his Splash Brother this season and 27.5 percent without him, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"We don't have to recreate our whole offense," Green said, "but some things definitely change."

The good news for Golden State is they shouldn't have to change for long. They have the luxury of knowing they'll be whole -- and hell to deal with -- again soon.

"If they're healthy, they're a heavy, heavy favorite to win it again," Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said. "They've got athletes, they've got shooting, they've got defense, they've got rim protection. I think it's as complete of a team as we've ever seen in this league."

Without Curry, well, the Warriors look like just another team.