OAKLAND — The grabbing, the holding, the smothering of Stephen Curry turned up a notch at the end of the Warriors’ captivating 24-0 start.
Boston, which nearly ended the streak, assigned one player to take special joy in impeding Curry. The next night, Milwaukee, the streak-ender, employed a similar strategy and carried it out even more aggressively.
This will probably be a regular part of existence for Curry, opponents trying to rough him up.
“It keeps me engaged, knowing I’ve got to do something to go back at it,” Curry said after Monday’s practice. “I don’t get used to it. But if that’s the way it’s going to go .”
Curry’s post-streak existence is a microcosm for the Warriors’, who now shift their focus from historic streaks to another title run. If winning the 2014-15 championship put a target on the Warriors’ back, the 24-0 start this season added a bounty.
The player who slows down Curry, sports biggest star, makes an instant name for himself. The team that joins the exclusive club of beating the Warriors might end up having a claim on history.
The remaining 57 games - and whether they can break the NBA record for wins in a season - is largely based on how well they handle the repeated assaults on their invincibility.
The tail end of the streak, the way Indiana roared back and Boston went all out and Milwaukee celebrated, showed the amped-up level the Warriors will have to deal with as the nation’s most popular team.
They are coming hard for Curry. And opponents are coming aggressively at the Warriors.
The doubts about the Warriors being the best team in the league were addressed by their ridiculous start to the season. The smirks that arose when someone would say Curry is the best player in the NBA were wiped off faces by his improbable dominance.
The higher Curry, and the Warriors, climb up all-time lists, the harder they fall and the more glorious the opponent that topples them.
For his part, Curry got prepared for the physicality in advance. He is just as surprised as the rest of us when he gets an array of open looks. He was expecting nightly wrestling matches. He trained for it and has some miniature guns to prove it.
Curry invites the physicality more, instead of avoiding it, which is why he is on pace to set a career-high in free throws.
His previous career-high was the 308 he made last season. He is already at 148 through 25 games.
That growth in his game is why he totaled 66 points in the two games teams really came after him - at Boston and Milwaukee - though he didn’t shoot particularly well.
“I expect it every game, whether it happens or not,” Curry said. “Some games I play well through it, some games I might not shoot the ball well or what have you. I don’t know if that’s the reason or not, but it’s the same expectation and approach for me.”
The Warriors adjusting to having their throne blitzed is another development worth watching.
They proved more than capable of thumping inferior teams during their 24-0 start. But battling the better teams, with the handicap of not having coach Steve Kerr, should reveal how great this Warriors team can be.