On Wednesday, for the first time in more than a year, fans will be allowed to enter Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Stephen Curry is coming town, so of course, the doors swing open.
How close are we to the day when Curry chooses whether to part the sea or walk on it?
The Steph Show is the most mesmerizing form of live entertainment currently available, and it pulls into the nation’s capital with the degree of psychological and emotional humidity that once permeated venues playing host to epic heavyweight championship fights.
On one end of the court will be the Warriors and Curry, riding the crest of an unprecedented shooting streak that has placed him atop of the NBA scoring chart.
On the other end, we have the Washington Wizards and Bradley Beal, the league’s leading scorer for 15 weeks before falling No. 2 on Monday, when Curry dropped 49 points on the Philadelphia 76ers.
When Beal put up 60 points on Jan. 3 at Philly, it was the highest individual scoring night this season. Three days later, here comes Curry. His response was to surpass that total by cooking the Portland Trail Blazers for 62.
Beal this season has five games with at least 40 points. Curry has five such games over the last 16 days and eight this season. Beal has 29 games with at least 30 points. Curry has 28 such games and has scored 30 or more in his last 11.
“He’s been unreal lately,” Philly center Joel Embiid said of Curry. “He’s been doing a good job just going out there and dominating. Every single game.”
And, now, in Golden State’s final game this season against an Eastern Conference opponent, Curry sets his sights on the Wizards.
Warriors-Wizards is intriguing on its face, with Golden State winning five of its last six and Washington winning its last five – and both teams hoping to maintain surges in hopes to avoid the dreaded play-in tournament.
But Curry vs. Beal is downright captivating. It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2. It’s the lead dog on Wednesday entering the cave of the lead dog two days earlier. It is, for the dreamers within Dub Nation, the player they cherish going head-to-head with the player they covet.
These factors alone are worthy of appointment, even if neither Curry nor Beal is much for embracing individualism.
Beal’s desire to succeed as part of a quality team is best illustrated by his salty reaction after his 60-point game.
“All my career highs have been losses,” he told reporters that night. “I don’t give a damn.”
Curry loves that mentality. Reminds him of himself. It’s why he’s so focused on taking these Warriors, with Draymond Green and Kevon Looney the only teammates with postseason chops, as high as they can go.
The Warriors enter this game with a chance to get over .500 for the first time since March 23.
“We have an opportunity to have a really good road trip if we can get one in DC on Wednesday and go home and keep building momentum,” Curry said after the 107-96 win in Philadelphia. “To do it the way we’ve been doing it, shorthanded, without real size, Draymond and Loon holding it down in the paint, it’s pretty impressive.”
With five-time All-Star Klay Thompson missing a second consecutive season, an even greater scoring burden landed on Curry. That was further exacerbated last week, when rookie center James Wiseman was lost to a season-ending injury.
Curry cleared his throat and summoned the most productive 10-game stretch of a career in its 12th season having already earned two NBA MVP awards. He’s averaging 40.8 points, shooting 54.9 from the field, 50.3 beyond the arc and 90.9 from the line.
“When I was on a different team, you could see it from afar,” Andrew Wiggins said in Philadelphia. “You could see what he was doing, see all the crazy things he was doing.
“Being on his team, it’s totally different. Totally different. Watching it person, every day, every game, the dominance of his presence, on and off the ball, it’s crazy.”
Curry is like Muhammad Ali at his glorious peak, floating and stinging and also dancing while leaving behind a trail of fallen foes. Steph is the People’s Champ, known and admired around the world.
Meanwhile, Beal excels in relative obscurity, a champ barely recognized beyond his reach. One of his teammates, Russell Westbrook, wears more decoration.
For this night, though, Westbrook is part of the scenery. All eyes will be on Curry and Beal. Arena capacity is limited to 10 percent, roughly 2,000, but the audience will be rapt and global.