As the ball left Stephen Curry’s hands in the dying moments of overtime of Saturday night’s instant classic between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like an audacious attempt even for him.
Curry had dribbled just a few feet over half court, took a quick glance up at the clock, then pulled up and fired from 38 feet away from the hoop. For many, this would be nothing more than a desperation heave. But for Curry, it was an in-rhythm jumper.
And, like so many Curry jumpers, it found the bottom of the basket, banking in off the backboard to not only lift the Warriors to their latest victory – this time by a score of 121-118 over the Thunder – but to also remind us, once again, of the genius Curry now provides on a regular basis.
“It’s hard to put into words what Steph did,” Klay Thompson, the other half of the Splash Brothers, told reporters in Oklahoma City after Saturday night’s game. “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve probably ever seen.”
It’s getting hard for everyone to figure out new ways to describe Curry’s exploits. How many different ways can you say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’ before it gets old?
The truth is that Curry has become the human equivalent of a cheat code. He’s routinely doing things no one has ever dreamed of, and doing so with effortless ease.
The basketball-loving portion of the internet delved into a discussion Saturday afternoon of whether the three-point line should be moved back, in the wake of comments from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressing that point of view. The thing is, the three-point line is exactly where it should be for 449 NBA players. Curry, on the other hand, is playing a game none of us have seen before.
With his 12 three-pointers Saturday night, Curry now has 288 triples this season, breaking the record of 286 he set last year. Now realize that Curry still has 24 games left this season – meaning he’s on pace to hit 408 three-pointers this season. The other half of Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” backcourt, Klay Thompson, is on pace to finish second … with 256.
Plus, as Saturday night’s game showed, Curry isn’t exactly going to be bothered by the line moving back. If anything, it might actually help. Any of the thousands of fans who have flocked to arenas for Curry’s pre-game shooting ritual (and think about that – people are going hours before games start just to watch him casually shoot some jumpers) have seen how Curry spends a large portion of it: firing up jumper after jumper from around half court, looking like a normal player shooting 15-footers.
It’s something no one else would even consider trying, but Curry makes it look routine. And, on Saturday night, it paid off with a shot for the ages – even for him.
“What’s the expression? From the ridiculous to the sublime?” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “That’s where we are at this point.”
The same could be said for Kerr’s Warriors, who are now 53-5 after Saturday’s win, and remain on pace to break the regular season record of 72 wins set by Michael Jordan’s 1996 Chicago Bulls. No other team has ever topped 70 wins in a season – and given that mark came in a season with two expansion teams, it was easy to think that it would never happen again.
For Stephen Curry and these Warriors, though, the impossible is starting to become routine. Curry’s incredible game-winner made it easy to forget the many other remarkable things that happened in this game, including:
● Curry leaving the game in the third quarter after rolling his ankle, limping back to the locker room and leaving everyone to hold their breath – at least until he came back to the scorer’s table and checked himself into the game a few minutes later.
● Andre Iguodala, one of the worst free throw shooters on the Warriors, knocking down two free throws with 0.7 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, capping a stunning turn of events in which the Warriors tied the game after trailing by four with 14 seconds to go.
● Draymond Green finishing with this remarkable stat line: two points on 0-for-8 shooting, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, six steals and four blocks in 44 minutes – plus, he reportedly went on a tirade in the locker room at halftime.
● Durant finishing with a typically brilliant line: 37 points, 12 rebounds and five assists before fouling out early in overtime, while Russell Westbrook had 26 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists.
As usual, though, Curry overshadowed everything. After scoring 51 points in Orlando on Thursday, he followed it up with 46 points on Saturday night, including those final three on that final, spectacular shot to improve to 12 for 16 from behind the arc on the night, and 22 for 31 from three-point range over his past two games.
For anyone else, those would be an unthinkable string of statistics. For Curry, though, they lead to a mere shake of the head and a smile. He’s reached the point where he makes the impossible seem routine. The Thunder became the latest team that was forced to learn the hard way Saturday night.