In a league rich with tales of stars overcoming physical illnesses to perform superhuman feats, add Stephen Curry to the list.
On the injury list until an hour before game time, Curry recovered well enough to enter the starting lineup Saturday and score 43 points, including 25 in a blazing third quarter, lifting the Warriors to a 144-98 walloping of Clippers at Oracle Arena.
Coping with soreness in his left quad, Curry did not perform his usual post-practice routine Friday and was listed as “questionable” and remained so until roughly an hour before the 5:30 tipoff.
“I was pretty confident from the time I woke up that I’d be able to go, just that optimism, but you don’t really know until you get out on the court and test it out,” he said.
Warmed up by 18 points in 17 first-half minutes, Curry went off in the third, making 8-of-11 shots, including 5-of-8 from deep -- and drilling three from the 30-foot range -- leaving coach Steve Kerr searching for superlatives.
“People write this: Steph gonna Steph. What does that mean? I don’t know. I’ve read it,” Kerr said. “Well, whatever that means, I think that’s what happened.”
The first half ended with Curry firing in a 51-foot buzzer-beater, giving the Warriors a 72-51 lead going into the locker room.
“My coach at Davidson, Bob McKillop, always talked about about ‘Big Mo,’ going into the half,” Curry said. “If you could get a stop or a buzzer-beater or a bucket down the stretch of the quarter, it usually has a carryover effect for the team.
“Me personally, you see a shot like that go in, you’re thinking about it during halftime. I came out and made my first shot in the third quarter, and that just continued the trend.”
There was the Michael Jordan “sick” game, when he was battling fever and flu but summoned the resolve to lead the Bulls to an NBA Finals victory in 1997.
There was the Kobe Bryant stomach flu game in which he scored 31 points in a playoff game against the Denver Nuggets in 2012.
Long before that, in perhaps the most famous example of a player defying his body, Knicks center Willis Reed, despite a torn thigh muscle, limped onto the court and led New York to a Game 7 victory in the 1970 NBA Finals.
That those exploits were in postseason and Curry’s was in the regular season, against an opponent the Warriors likely would have beaten without him, is testimony to the grit beneath the glamor of his game.