And in the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry rested.
Not because he was tired but because he had earned the right, needing only 29 minutes over three quarters to complete his task.
Shortly after the NBA’s No. 2 scorer, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, scored 50 points in an overtime win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Curry, the No. 1 scorer, led the Warriors onto the floor at Chase Center and rang up 49 in a 136-97 wrecking of the Thunder.
Aggressive early, Curry’s 24-point first quarter, with five 3-pointers, was a tantalizing preview of a night when he could have gone for 70. He had 22 points in the third quarter, the eighth time this season he has scored at least 20 in a quarter.
And he did it all with his usual pizazz, spinning and grinning and making defenders look lost, he shot 14-of-26 from the field, 11-of-21 from distance and 10-of-10 from the line. Though it often feels like an endless loop, this was another episode of The Steph Show.
“It seems like he’s just always spectacular these days,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And tonight, he topped it. Really spectacular.
“When he got going in the third, we had about 4,000 fans in the stands and you could just hear every one of them in anticipation of the ball going in the hoop. It’s just amazing. The skill level is matched by his confidence level, and magical things happen.”
The home crowd, officially 4,155, was quick with the chants: M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!
“When Steph’s got a crowd,” Kevon Looney said, “he turns it up to another level.”
Asked if he thinks Curry is the MVP, Kerr didn’t bother with the “no disrespect to ...” preface.
“Of course, I do,” Kerr said. “I get to watch this show every single night and I have just so much admiration for what Steph does every single night not only on the floor but the way he carries himself and the way he is an example for all of his teammates.”
Should the Warriors make a quick exit from the postseason, or get bounced in the play-in round, cover your ears. Even in California. Protect yourself from the sound of 200 computers being thrown into the walls of the NBA offices in New York.
Yeah, there will be tantrums from folks in high places if Curry is off the NBA grid by June, much less if he and the Warriors are one-and-done.
Even if he’s not the NBA MVP. With a little more than one week remaining in the regular season, Curry continues sprinting from the rear, trying to close the gap on Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the front-runner.
Regardless where Curry finishes in the MVP race, he remains the league’s most hypnotic presence. The Steph Show is the best show in the NBA, conceivably all of American sports.
“Steph puts on a show every night,” Looney said. “And sometimes you can take it for granted.”
That would be, for those who claim to love entertainment, a crime. Curry’s game is one of the joys of our time, better than online streaming, touchscreen glass or 3D printing. All we have to do is watch.
Curry has scored at least 30 points in 19 of the last 21 games. He’s doing it with a backside that’s still tender from the butt-first fall into a metal bench on March 17 at Houston. He’s doing despite being the focus of every defense and the Warriors reduced to an eight-man rotation that is the shortest in the NBA.
“It’s been a great run, obviously, trying to continue it,” said Curry, who drained his first three 3-point attempts inside the first four minutes.
“Nights like tonight when you want to get off to a good start knowing we should win this game, and they were going to come out and try to give themselves some life early, we wanted to take that away. Offensively, just trying to create any type of space. When you see the first two go down, you start to find another level of confidence even to start the game and try to create an avalanche from there.”
This was yet another night when Curry was the best show in sports, even though he was outscored by Beal. Even though Beal’s teammate, Russell Westbrook, tied Oscar Robertson’s record for career-triple-doubles.
Heck, even though terrific super middleweight boxer Canelo Alvarez added a championship belt.
“He’s just an amazing player, one of the most exciting players to ever play the game,” Looney said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to go out there and watch him play basketball at this level every night.”
There are millions around the world who feel the same way.