It's the most frustrating time of the year for the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry

By Matt Becker 24 December 2020 31
It's the most frustrating time of the year for the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry

The Christmas Day quintuple-header is the NBA showcase that brims with compelling matchups between powerhouse teams and the league's biggest and brightest stars.

Even for casual fans, Friday's slate is enticing with five games spaced throughout the day and night featuring 26 All-Stars, including four MVP winners.

While Christmas is a time to celebrate and be merry, playing on December 25 hasn't been full of cheer for one of the game's premier players of the last decade.

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry is a future Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but you would have a hard time convincing that to the casual fan who tunes in at Christmas.

In seven career Christmas games, Curry is averaging 9.6 points on 29.3 per cent shooting and 20.5 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Not exactly numbers that scream two-time league MVP.

In fact, since the three-point line was adopted in 1979-80, no player has shot less than 30 per cent and averaged more than 6.0 points per game over the course of a career - the kind of numbers Curry puts up on Christmas.

While many count down the days until Christmas, you'll have to forgive Curry if he's not one of them considering December 25 has been his worst shooting day of the season.

Of the dates when he has played a minimum three games, December 15 has been his second worst on the calendar, with 33.3 per cent shooting over four games.

Christmas Day has also been one of Curry's most dismal days for three-point shooting, making just 20.5 per cent of his attempts. Of the dates when he has played at least three games, his three-point record has only been worse on April 21 (12.5 per cent) and December 16 (17.6 per cent).

Given his shooting woes on Christmas it should be no big surprise he's never had a 20-point game on December 25. It marks just one of three calendar dates where he's played at least three games and not reached the 20-point mark. On the other two dates of February 15 and April 19, he's only played three games apiece on those days - four fewer opportunities than his appearances on Christmas.

Not only has December 25 been one of Curry's most dreadful days of the season for making shots, his struggles with shooting on that particular day go down among the worst for anyone who has played on Christmas in more than 35 years.

Since 1983-84, of players who have taken a minimum 50 attempts, Curry has the lowest Christmas Day shooting success percentage, worse than Ron Harper and Michael Finley (both 32.7 per cent), Derek Fisher (33.8 per cent) and Paul Pierce (35 per cent).

Part of Curry's struggles on Christmas could have something to do with the fact his Warriors are typically facing stiff competition in either a Finals rematch or potential playoff preview, so he's matching up against the best of the best.

However, he's faced the same teams he's gone up against on Christmas at other times in the same season and his numbers in those matchups are more in line with his career averages of 23.5 points per game on 47.6 per cent shooting and 43.5 per cent from three-point range.

Curry's points per game perk up from 9.6 to an average of 18.9 when he faces Christmas Day opponents on other occasions in the same season, with his field goal percentage soaring to 47.1 per cent and three-point shooting jumping from to 47.2 per cent.

So maybe late December is when Curry typically goes through a cold spell. However, taking a look at the games he's played immediately before his Christmas contests and immediately after, his shooting stats are again more of what you would expect from him on any given night.

When he has played in a game immediately prior to Christmas, Curry averages 23.2 points on 45.5 per cent overall shooting and 37.3 per cent three-point success, while in the first post-Christmas game he has scored 22.4 points on average (44.2 per cent overall shooting, 43.1 per cent from three-point range).

This will be the eighth straight year the Warriors are playing on December 25 and many eyes will be on Curry given the six-time All-Star will be playing for just the third time since October 2019, after missing much of last season with a broken left hand.

He looked like his old self in the preseason and played well in spurts in Tuesday's opener before sitting out the fourth quarter when the outcome was in little doubt with Golden State on the wrong end of a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

So maybe after all these years he'll finally be able to put together a memorable Christmas performance. At least he doesn't again have to face a Los Angeles Lakers team that's given him problems in the past and gets - gulp, the Milwaukee Bucks.

And there's the big festive plot twist. Curry averages just 19.9 points against the Bucks across his career - his lowest scoring average against any team.

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Matt Becker