NEW YORK – Having endured the obstructions in his path, the visions in his mind and the aspiration in his heart, Stephen Curry’s basketball pilgrimage has reached its destination. The world’s most famous arena. In the nation’s biggest city. Before devotees most accustomed to performance art.
Curry’s quest to become the undisputed king of shooters likely ends Tuesday night when the Warriors come to Madison Square Garden, the place where Curry’s fame took its first giant leap in 2013, when he lit up the New York Knicks for 54 points.
This time, the individual goal is a modest two.
With two more triples, Curry will pass Hall of Famer Ray Allen and officially become king of NBA shooters.
“Now that (I’m) knocking at the doorstep, it’s pretty surreal,” Curry said Monday night in Indianapolis after scoring 26 points and making five 3-pointers in a 102-100 win over the Pacers.
Among the many great things about sport is its spontaneity. There is script. Yet here is an opportunity that comes straight from a storybook, filled with anticipation and drama, all in pursuit of a most fulfilling conclusion.
It’s as if the NBA office submitted a manuscript – “Optimal Conditions for a Nationally Televised Game featuring Steph Curry in Pursuit of a Career Record” – that was unanimously approved by the lords of the game.
Curry had hoped to complete his climb to the top before a home audience last Wednesday at Chase Center. He needed 16 triples, two more than the single-game record. Of 19 attempts in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, he made six. Taking the show to Philadelphia on Saturday, needing 10 to supplant Allen, Curry hoisted 14 3-point attempts, making three in a loss to the 76ers.
It was apparent that this record was going to be stubborn about falling.
“I think he’s been trying a little bit too hard the last two games, just trying to make 3s and get to this record,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’ll be a relief with him, I think, and for our team when he does break it.”
Curry is seeing the best defenders, who are getting plenty of help, as opponents are committed to denying the record being set on their floor.
Then came five more (in 15 attempts) on Monday, against the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, leaving Curry one away from tying Allen and two away from moving ahead.
“One thing I learned over these last three games,” Curry said, “is to keep playing basketball, keep taking shots you think you can make and enjoy the experience of it because it’s long time coming.
“I know teams are coming out trying to make sure it doesn’t happen on them, especially if it’s making 10 or 16 or seven, whatever it is,” Curry said. “But I’m just enjoying feeling the moment, in terms of the chase to get over the mountaintop. After that, I’ll just see how far I can push it.”
Expect the Knicks to do their part to prevent Curry from making history in their house. Coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation as a defensive specialist – though that reputation is taking a beating this season. New York ranks 24th in defensive rating this season, and only the Hornets have been worse over the last two weeks.
There will be an even greater number of celebrities sitting courtside Tuesday night at the Garden. Some were going to be there anyway. But now, with the game as a stage of history, they’ll show up in droves.
“Everybody wants to see the record broken,” Draymond Green said. “So, everybody is cheering. It’s not just our fans. You want to witness history. I’m sure it will be electric.
“Hopefully, he’ll make the first two 3s that he shoots in the first quarter.”
That would be ideal for the Warriors, whose offense during Curry’s runup to the record has been more uneven than at any time this season. Get the record early, and settle back into playing basketball in the Garden.
“I’ve had some fun nights in that building; it’s hard not to,” Curry said. “It’s the Garden. The whole legacy of that building, how iconic it is. A lot of cool things have happened in that building. So, I’m going to enjoy it.”
Don’t doubt Curry’s word. That’s his approach to the game. Joy. And, away from the Bay Area, there is no better crowd to please than that which assembles at the fabled arena on Pennsylvania Plaza in Manhattan, a few blocks from Broadway.