SAN FRANCISCO – The preposterous odds were too long for Stephen Curry to overcome. Though he got what he earned and the Warriors got what they wanted, the fans were not granted their biggest wish.
The sellout crowd (18,064) at Chase Center spent Wednesday evening trying to telepathically prod Curry to the record that is oh, so close, collectively inhaling with every 3-pointer he took, roaring if it dropped through and groaning if it did not.
Most did not.
Which is why, after three quarters, with Curry having made six 3-pointers – leaving him 10 away from breaking Ray Allen’s record for most in a career – a visible portion of the crowd headed up the aisles toward the exits. It’s not much of a leap to conclude they came not for the Warriors but for Curry and the longshot possibility of witnessing history.
Instead, those that remained seated settled for a desultory 104-94 win over an emaciated version of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t give our fans much to get thrilled about,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But it’s good to be in this position where we are still winning games if we are not playing our best.”
But, boy, did Stephen the Entertainer try and try and try to deliver. It was abundantly clear that Curry wanted to break the record and wanted to do it in this game, in this building, which in large part was constructed off the momentum of his popularity. Wanted it more for the fans than for himself.
“To make that many 3s in one game, obviously, it’s never been done before,” Kerr said. “It was just a routine night. He made six, which is nothing to him. I don’t think I ever did that in my entire career. Never once.”
Needing 16 3-pointers to pass Allen – the single-game record is 14, by Klay Thompson – Curry came out in hot pursuit, hoisting his first 3-point shot attempt 12 seconds after tipoff. Airball. He took three shots from deep in the first 137 seconds and missed them all. He finished with 17 attempts – five below his career high.
That 12 of those attempts came in the first half speaks to Curry’s desire to please the people.
“I thought Steph took a couple quick ones early that maybe he was trying to get himself going,” Kerr said.
Curry, who missed his first four attempts from deep, still finished with a team-high 22 points. With no record to celebrate, and perhaps because he’s aware of the mountainous obligations ahead, he was unavailable afterward.
For much of the evening, and certainly in the fourth quarter, the Blazers – missing star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, both injured – devoted themselves as much to containing Curry as to trying to win the game. There were traps, double-teams and half-court defenses that could be described as let-anybody-but-Curry-room-to-shoot.
“We didn’t change much from a game-plan perspective,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “We know what’s at stake. Obviously, we know it’s inevitable at some point soon he’s going to get that record. We didn’t take pride in it not being us. Sixteen is a lot of 3s to make in a game.
“We know that he can do it. He was off and was hunting the 3-ball . . . I just thought as a team we played hard, we played together. I’m proud of our effort.”
“Obviously, Steph is an electric player,” Jordan Poole said. “And we want to get him going as much as possible. He’s going to continue to play his game and shoot the shots that he shoots. (The record) is coming up soon and everybody knows it.
“But we’re going to play our game.”
So, Curry’s hunt continues. He needs 10 to break the record. He has made at least that many in 22 previous games, with nine (Nov. 18 at Cleveland) his season-high.
The pursuit now moves to Philadelphia, birthplace of the Warriors. It’s a national TV game against the 76ers, for whom Stephen’s brother, Seth, plays.
Maybe the magical moment that was so unlikely to come Wednesday night in San Francisco will come Saturday night in Philly.