JP atones for mistake, Steph's emotional mouthpiece throw originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry’s mouthpiece-throwing fury was gone without a trace, replaced by one of the silliest grins of all time.
A victory grin, you might say, since it spread across Curry’s face shortly after the Warriors erased a 10-point deficit over the final six minutes Wednesday night to steal a 122-120 win over the rival Memphis Grizzlies.
Curry was standing the hallway outside the Warriors locker room, where he had been banished minutes earlier, gazing toward his teammates walking off. He slapped palms with security chief Yusef Wright and then teammate/friend Andre Iguodala.
And, lastly, Jordan Poole, whose mindless shot was the source of Curry’s anger that led to his ejection, approached the team’s touchstone. Curry was grinning. Poole was grinning in return. Poole then threw his mouthpiece, mimicking the gesture for which Curry was ejected with 1:14 remaining and the Warriors clinging to a two-point lead.
Curry’s grin split into full laughter and he and Poole slapped palms and embraced. They backed off, giggled once more and, well, fell into another embrace.
“That was,” Curry said of JP’s toss, “like one of those ‘too soon’ jokes.”
This is one of those moments that can have meaning for a team. Poole got under Curry’s skin – and that of his coaches and teammates – by launching a 29-foot shot with 13 seconds on the shot clock and 1:14 left in the game. JP later atoned for it by slipping free on an inbounds play and dropping in a layup with one second remaining.
Game over. The same teammate who made Curry mad made him glad. All was forgiven.
“To see the guys bounce back the way they did and finish the job? A lot of celebrations in the tunnel,” Curry said.
“We just kind of embraced a little bit,” Poole said. “Obviously, he's our leader and we would love to have him in the game with us for the last 3, but we just found a way to grit it out and get a big win against a really good team. We’ve got to keep that momentum going.”
The Curry-Poole dynamic is by turns agonizing and beautiful. Both are point guards with marvelous talent who also can play effectively off the ball. Both are prone to turnovers. Both have a glorious excess of confidence, but JP’s self-assurance flashes neon while Steph has built a Hall of Fame career by using humility as cover as he seeks to annihilate all foes.
Truth told, JP is the 23-year-old heir apparent to Steph, who is 34 and, all things considered, the greatest Warrior of all-time. His shoes are that big, and in the meantime it’s imperative that Curry and Poole find ways to not only coexist but share in prosperity.
As they did in the fourth quarter. Poole scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-3 from deep, and was plus-13 for the quarter. Curry lasted only six minutes before being tossed, but he scored 10 points without missing a shot and was plus-8.
“We needed this win in a desperate way,” Curry said. “Not just because it is Memphis and all of the narratives there, but it is just how we’re playing. We’re trying to put solid performances together and build some consistency, momentum and down the stretch, JP came out the gates in the fourth quarter and hit some big shots. He got us some energy. I came in and tried to pick up where he left off.”
Naturally, the already elevated anxiety level inside Chase skyrocketed when Curry left. That brightened the spotlight on Klay Thompson and Poole. To whom would the Warriors turn?
Well, both. Thompson buried a triple with 14.6 seconds to go to give Golden State a two-point lead. The Grizzlies responded with Ja Morant driving into the lane and feeding Brandon Clarke for a game-tying lob with 6.3 seconds left.
Joy filled the room. As for Poole’s ill-advised shot and Curry’s mouthpiece-throwing reaction, coach Steve Kerr excused both players.
“That’s alright,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “We won. We won. Let’s focus on the positives.”
Indeed. All’s well that ends well.