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Stephen Curry Doesn’t Have His Shot Back

Thursday night, the record-setting Golden State Warriors avoided playoff elimination, taking Game 5 of the Western Conference finals from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Reigning MVP Steph Curry had 31 points on 9-of-20 shooting, but questions remain about whether, after suffering a knee injury early in the playoffs, this is the same Curry who laid waste to the league throughout the season and if he can finish digging the Warriors out of a 3-1 series hole.

Curry has shot 35 percent from three in eight games since first being injured, far below his regular-season average of 45 percent. Here’s a breakdown of his 3-point shooting relative to the quality of shots (as divined by the NBA’s player-tracking data) he’s taken throughout the season:

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Compared with his regular-season showing, post-injury Curry has maintained a high volume of shots with comparable shot quality: He’s taken 10.6 3-point attempts per game with average expected value per shot of .97 points, versus. 11.2 and .98 during the regular season.

Relative to expectation, however, Curry has been mortal. He isn’t shooting “badly” by NBA standards, but he has been awful by his own. Curry averaged a flabbergasting .38 points above expectation per 3-point attempt in the regular season, but he’s averaged just .08 points per shot above expectation post-injury. Previously, his worst eight-game stretch was .09 and came from Dec. 11 to Jan. 2.

The average 3-pointer taken by a Curry teammate this year had an expected value of 1.1 points, and the Warriors shot .09 better than expectation on them. In other words, since returning from injury, Curry has been chucking like his MVP self but has been connecting like any old Warrior.

On the one hand, it is probably good news for the Warriors that Curry appears to be getting his usual looks at his usual frequency since his return. On the other hand, any evidence that Curry isn’t really himself is bad news, because the Warriors are in desperate need of some flabbergasting performances if they hope to repeat.

Benjamin Morris researches and writes about sports and other topics for FiveThirtyEight.

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