Editor's note: This week, we'll be rehashing some of the most iconic moments in Steph Curry's career. Tune in to "Curry Countdown" on Saturday, May 30 at 10:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area to relive all things Steph.
Oklahoma City is one of few remaining NBA arenas in which a few reporters sit courtside, between team benches. The view is spectacular, the sounds hilarious and on one occasion it put me within reach of a miracle.
On Feb. 27, 2016, I saw Stephen Curry fly into the sun and stay cool.
Curry and the defending champion Warriors came rolling into Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 52-5 record. Even though the Thunder (41-17) had lost three of four, their nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka was primed to pose problems.
It didn’t take long for the Warriors to realize that. Barely five minutes after tipoff, they were down 18-5. They missed seven of their first nine shots against a defense with three players boasting wingspans greater than 7 feet and a fourth at 6-foot-11.
“I remember the first quarter and how hard it was for us to get any space on offense to even get a shot,” recalls general manager Bob Myers, who was on a scouting trip. “I was thinking about how long and athletic they were defensively and thinking, ‘This team is going to be there at the end.’”
Sitting at center court, the home bench to my left and visitors to my right, the same thought entered my mind. The Warriors had the gaudy record, but OKC was bigger and longer and seemingly just as fast.
The Thunder also had Durant. At 6-foot-11 with the handle of a guard and deep shooting range, KD was the league’s most matchup-resistant player.
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With 5:52 left in the second quarter and the Warriors trailing by 10 (40-30), Curry replaced Andre Iguodala. The Warriors hoped to get within single digits before halftime, and Steph complied. He drained three triples over the next 87 seconds. It’s now 42-41 OKC.
The Thunder responded, closing the quarter with a 15-5 run, taking a 57-46 lead into the locker room. While they strategized on ways to slow Curry (15 points), the Warriors were bickering. Loudly. Specifically, Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr were at each other’s throats.
“I got phone calls about Steve and Draymond,” Myers said.
The Warriors opened the second half with six consecutive points, pulling within five, when disaster struck with 91 seconds into the quarter. Curry got a steal and raced into transition. Going airborne toward the rim, he landed on his left foot, which rolled hard under the right foot of Westbrook. After slamming into the stanchion, Steph immediately signaled for a teammate to commit a foul before rising and limping into the locker room.
“I got calls about Steph’s ankle,” Myers said. “Honestly, I was thinking he’d be done for that game.”
Watching the slow-motion replays, that was a reasonable conclusion. The sprain looked severe enough to miss a few games. At the least, we’ d seen the air come out of the Warriors’ chances.
The air returned with 5:10 left in the quarter. Curry was returning. Watching him check in a few feet away, I was stunned. He’d tested his ankle and persuaded the medical staff that he was OK. The sight of him going back onto the court sent a wave of anxiety through the arena.
By the final horn, that anxiety had turned into somber dejection.
Curry scored 46 points, 31 coming after halftime. He took 16 3-pointers, making 12, the last of which lives on as one of the most audacious, disrespectful heaves in NBA history.
Down 70-63 when Curry entered, the revivified Warriors took their first lead, 78-77, on a 3-ball by Steph less than four minutes after he reappeared. OKC didn’t blink, reeling off a 13-0 run and taking a 90-78 lead with 9:15 remaining.
Enter Klay Thompson and Iguodala. The Warriors closed with a 25-13 burst, with Klay scoring nine points and Andre draining two free throws with zeroes on the clock, forcing overtime.
OKC was up five (108-103) when Durant fouled out with 4:13 left in OT.
The Warriors seemed to sense vulnerability. With Curry scoring nine points and Thompson six, they pulled into a 118-118 tie with 29 seconds remaining. After an OKC timeout, the Thunder ran the clock to eight seconds before Westbrook missed a midrange jumper. Iguodala snatched the rebound and fed Curry, who went miracle.
Dribbling across the halfcourt line, Steph took two more steps and, to astonishment of the defense, gathered and launched in rhythm. Splash. Or, as ABC play-by-play voice Mike Breen said: “Bang! . . . Bang!”
A 35-foot game-winner on a shot only Curry saw coming.
“Steph’s shot was just . . . that was one of those moments that are just surreal. Just not real,” Myers said. “To pull up from there and end the game in that fashion was just unbelievable. I can’t imagine.
“That’s one of those games where, if you’re the opponent, you just shake your head and say, ‘That’s not fair. That’s just not right.’ It was so far away. There’s no bad defense. It was just . . . that’s ridiculous.”
Curry, now more than an hour after limping off the court, celebrated. The Warriors rejoiced. The Thunder slumped, and their dazed fans slowly began ambling out of the building.
Best regular-season game I’ve even seen. And, in 35 years covering sports, game circumstances and Curry’s ankle considered, No. 1 on the list of shocking comebacks.
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Watching from a few feet away as Steph pulled up, I had two thoughts. From way out there? What is he doing?
“There’s a lot of ‘What’s he doing?’ with Steph, and he makes them,” Myers said. “So, we should probably stop saying that.”
Haven’t done it since.