Steph Curry just completed one of the best regular season weeks ever with a 38-footer, a game-winning, overtime three to win one of the best regular season games ever, 121-118, over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The doubting former players, along with the current players who voted for James Harden over Curry last season for MVP, are all melting away with each dastardly deed performed by the best player in the sport and the most exciting athlete in North America.
Curry’s game-winner gave him 12 threes on the night, tying the all-time record for a single game. Curry’s game-winner gave him 288 threes in 2015-16, two more than the record for a single season. Curry’s game-winner was also a blatant display of disregard for the reality all other humans face. No one else can do what Curry has done this week — over the past year and a half, for that matter — but tonight tops all we’ve seen thus far.
Curry would represent the expansion of our basketball minds, but our minds have long since been blown. 129 points, 21 threes and 23 assists in his previous three games was ludicrous, but what Curry did on Saturday night in Oklahoma City was, on Oscars (not Robertson) Eve, was a movie wrapped in a game.
The Thunder jumped out to a large early lead. Curry and Andre Iguodala kept them in the game in the first half. Then ABC’s Lisa Salters reported on some sort of halftime argument in the visitors’ locker room that included a “profanity-laced” tirade. Salters thought it could’ve come from Draymond Green (OF COURSE it was Draymond Green). Then Curry had to leave the game in the third quarter after Russell Westbrook landed hard on his left ankle.
That’s when it seemed like Steve Kerr should’ve taken a page out of the Gregg Popovich playbook, and rested several starters at the end of a grueling road trip in order to save his best players and avoid a situation where the Thunder could gain confidence at the Warriors’ expense.
Except Curry returned to the game a few minutes after heading to the locker room and getting his ankle re-taped, and the Warriors hung around long enough to put together yet another unlikely comeback.
This story is threatening to become a little too Curry-centric, which isn’t fair. This game was also about the greatness of the Warriors’ four best players: Curry (46 points, 12-for-16 on threes), Klay Thompson (32 points despite making only 2-of-9 threes), Andre Iguodala (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Green (2 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks).
The latter three worked together to tie the game, as Kevin Durant (who scored 37 points but also fouled out and completely screwed up this play I’m about to describe) responded to a trap with time running out by flinging a desperation pass that would’ve worked out better for Oklahoma City if three fewer seconds remained. Thompson deflected the pass, Green saved it to Thompson with a pass that defied geometry, and Thompson got it to Iguodala, who was fouled by Durant. Iguodala had two free throws to tie it, and just like in the Warriors’ second-most improbable win this season (against Brooklyn on 11/14), he sent the game to overtime with clutch shot-making.
Shaun Livingston and Mo Speights also contributed to this win, but one man and one man alone left the Thunder shaking their heads at the end. Oklahoma City, much like Miami a few nights earlier, couldn’t play much better than this. Their defense over most of the contest was strong, and as the announcers mentioned often (more on one of them in a bit), there was nothing they could do against most — if not all — of Curry’s three-point barrage. Led by 20 rebounds from Serge Ibaka, the Thunder held a 62-32 edge in that category, too.
But Curry and the Warriors keep taking so much delight in obliterating the egos of the other contenders. They haven’t blown out Oklahoma City (yet), but this kind of loss might be worse for the psyche.
Curry has been stretching his range to areas we haven’t considered for non-desperation shots. He’s made how many from the edge of the halfcourt logo now? How many halfcourt or three-quarter court shots has he made? Is this the new reality, where if you don’t pick him up from 45 feet away, you’re toast? The Thunder looked well aware of this possibility, but Curry made several plays on Saturday night for his teammates or himself after racing past encroaching defenders and darting toward the rim.
This is the best team in the NBA — Curry didn’t win this game by himself. However, the lasting impression will be his oh-so-confident gait once Iguodala fed him with five seconds remaining, the ease of his mechanics, and his well-deserved dance after a shot that will never be forgotten.
Nor will the promise from this game. This isn’t all there is, and everyone watching knows it. More 38-foot shots are coming. Hell, Curry is in the midst of his trademark post-ASG turn-up session, and any shot within 50 feet is fair game. We’re looking at the future of basketball, only it arrived sooner than anyone thought. In NASA terms, it’s like we put a person on Mars this weekend. We needed more time to get used to this type of player and the shots he makes on a nightly basis, and that’s where the “hate” is coming from. Experts don’t want to find out that everything they’ve learned has been rendered irrelevant, but Curry keeps bending the rules to the point where it’s better to treat his performances like an afternoon at the Planetarium — just sit back and let your mind wander with the possibilities.
— Harrison Barnes and Anderson Varejao missed a layup or two. I’m trying to be nice here.
— Mark Jackson was almost pro-Warriors during this game, including his comments after Green probably should’ve been called for a foul. He said Green made a “big-time defensive play” or whatever, and Jeff Van Gundy called him a “Thunder hater” in jest. Perhaps ESPN/ABC had a chat with Jackson, or maybe he realized it was time to stop piling on a five-loss team that’s already gotten way too much nonsensical criticism from Oscar Robertson, Stephen Jackson and Cedric Ceballos over the last week.
— Durant and Russell Westbrook need reinforcements. They clearly want to beat the Warriors so badly, but their bench pales in comparison to the Warriors’ reserves — even though Enes Kanter causes problems (and should probably play more minutes against Golden State in the future).
— Vine time!
Wait, I thought the box score play-by-play sheet said 32 feet. I’m not complaining, just … wow.
Not sure what’s the best part of this one — Mike Breen’s double-“bang!” or Kanter tossing up his hands in frustration before the shot actually goes in.
How quick was the release on that shot? He cruises through those lefty dribbles, then BAM — you can barely see the release. Like a grasshopper jumping. Guess his ankle is OK.