SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors spent Thursday night tempting fate, swimming with sharks and twerking at cliff’s edge, all to provide a backdrop for the second coming of Stephen Curry.
They’d given back a 19-point first-half lead with a dizzying spate of turnovers. Trailing the LA Clippers by two with 1:54 remaining, Curry launched and drained a 31-footer to put the Warriors up one. When LA came back to take a one-point lead, Curry’s reply was another 3-ball, this one from 26 feet, giving the Warriors a 111-109 lead with 57.7 seconds left.
The sellout crowd at Chase Center was revived. Curry closed things out by scoring his 44th and 45th points from the line. A 115-113 victory was secured and the Warriors were saved.
“Steph Curry, was just Steph Curry,” coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s never been anybody like him. Those last two 3s were ridiculous.”
Ridiculous, yes, and absolutely necessary after the Warriors, including Curry, recklessly undid his first coming – a 25-point first quarter on perfect shooting that laid the foundation for a 61-42 lead with 5:33 left in the first half. The Warriors committed four turnovers over the final 5:08 of the second quarter and 12 for the half.
“You’re not going to give yourself a chance to win a game if you have 12 turnovers at the half,” Damion Lee said.
That’s where Curry comes in, wiping away the damage from all those giveaways, including six attributed to him, one less than the seven charged to Jordan Poole. The Clippers were able to put up 12 more field goals and had an 18-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Warriors needed somebody to save them from themselves, and that’s a role suited to Curry – particularly after his 5-of-21 “trash” shooting performance in the season opener against the Lakers Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“With Steph coming off game like he came off of on Tuesday, you’ve got to know he’s coming out firing,” Draymond Green said. “He doesn’t have too many off shooting nights. Definitely impressed. But not surprised at all.”
Most of Curry’s teammates have seen takeover performances, and the rest surely have heard about them. The holdover coaches are familiar with it. New coaches Jama Mahlalela (director of player development) and assistant coach DeJan Milojević were left to marvel.
“Jama came up to me after the game and said, ‘This may not be new to you guys, but DeJan and I were talking and ...' This is their first time with the Steph Curry experience, and they were just blown away," Kerr said.
“Even though we’ve all been here watching it I’m still blown away. There’s never been anybody like him. And not just the shooting range, but the competitiveness and the guts. Just an amazing, amazing player.”
Curry’s first quarter was one for the ages, 9-of-9 shooting from the field, including 5-of-5 beyond the arc, and 2-of-2 from the line. Warriors teammate Klay Thompson and Curry are the only players in NBA history to score 25 or more points on perfect shooting with five or more triples in a quarter.
That opening salvo rocked the Clippers and was precisely the tonic the home crowd needed to get into the spirit of the season.
“There’s always that vibe,” said Curry, who also snagged a team-high 10 rebounds. “You want to play well to win. This isn’t the first time I shot terribly at Staples and came back and had a good game on the back end.
“I’m never worried about my shot. Ever. It’s just one game.”
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Good teams find a way to win more games than they lose. Great teams, however, can find a way to win games they easily could lose.
The Warriors were great Thursday night, and for that they can thank Curry.