We have never seen anything like Stephen Curry before, and Saturday night reminded us we should all thank our lucky stars that we have the ability to watch him nearly nightly while he’s healthy and spry.
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Curry returned from a frightening sprained left ankle in the third quarter to put up 31 points after injury and 46 overall as Golden State finished off a dominant road trip with a 121-118 victory over Oklahoma City. Curry, who suffered from numerous ankle injuries early in his career, hit a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime from 38 feet away.
The splash tied an NBA record for 3-pointers in a game (with 12), all in a game that saw him break his own mark for 3-pointers in a season.
The reigning MVP now has 288 3-pointers in a season. We should also remind that this game was played on Feb. 27, and Curry wrapped up last season’s record in mid-April.
The Warriors had every right to be out of this game. The team hasn’t played at home since Feb. 9, and the nationally televised pairing with the Thunder marked the seventh and final game of a long road trip for a squad that has played more road contests than any other so far this season. The Thunder raced out to a 19-5 lead in the first quarter, looking to add a sixth loss to Golden State’s ledger as the Warriors (now 53-5) chase down Chicago’s 20-year old record for wins in a season.
That 72-10 Bulls team never had to face anything like Curry, though, as the MVP nailed 12 of 16 from deep and 14 of 24 overall, while adding six assists. Standout performances from Klay Thompson (31 points, several key defensive plays) and Draymond Green (versatile defense, with 14 rebounds, 14 assists, six steals and four blocks) also aided in the Warriors' comeback.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant added 37 points, 12 rebounds and five assists prior to fouling out in overtime, while Russell Westbrook came through with 26 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists, but it wasn’t enough. Nothing ever seems to be against Golden State.
Despite the hot start, Thunder turnovers and strong bench play helped Golden State make a game of it by halftime. The teams were trading baskets with OKC up 57-52 with 10 1/2 minutes left in the third when Curry appeared to badly sprain his left ankle on a fruitless fast break. Worse, Westbrook inadvertently stepped on Curry’s ankle right after the twist. Curry, who struggled through several ankle sprains and a right ankle surgery in his first few seasons, stayed on the ground and called for an intentional foul to pause play before heading to the locker room.
Emerging with a retaped ankle after missing just five minutes of game time (with the Thunder having added just a single point to their lead), Curry started to warm up by adding 11 points before the end of the third. Oklahoma City kept the Warriors at arm’s length for most of that period and the fourth, though the Thunder added just another point to their lead when the MVP took a rest midway through the fourth quarter.
The Warriors were clearly tired, unable to corral momentum on cuts that usually result in easy layups, but Oklahoma City just could not capitalize. Six turnovers in the second quarter (with 22 overall; Durant and Westbrook combined for 12) and nine missed free throws helped mitigate an astounding 30-rebound advantage for the Thunder.
By the time Durant hit a three to put Oklahoma City up 103-99 with 14 seconds left, though, things seemed wrapped up. Klay Thompson hit a quick layup following a timeout, but with OKC inbounding the ball to Durant (an 89 percent free-throw shooter) prior to an expected intentional foul, Golden State seemed set for its sixth loss in 59 games.
The Warriors did not foul, however, trapping Durant and forcing him into a long cross-court pass that Klay Thompson tipped. Draymond Green chased down and dove for the loose ball, sending it to Thompson, who proceeded to do just about everything wrong: Klay declined to call a timeout and looked off an open Stephen Curry in order to pass ahead to Andre Iguodala. The 2015 Finals MVP then decided to take a shot that is hardly in his repertoire with less than a second remaining – a 20-foot jumper with Kevin Durant closing out.
Durant fouled Iguodala, though, sending him to the line as the buzzer sounded. Iguodala, a 61 percent free-throw shooter who has been the target of Hack-a-Dre intentional fouls both this season and last, calmly nailed both to send the game to overtime.
The Thunder raced out to an early five-point lead in the extra frame, but Durant was baited into hacking Curry on a drive with 4:13 left in overtime, fouling himself out of the game in the process. Sensing blood in the water, going small as Oklahoma City fuddled with its lineup, the Warriors pounced.
Curry managed 10 in the overtime run prior to the game-winner that sent the NBA into conniptions:
These two teams will pay each other on Thursday evening on TNT. If the contest is half as good as this one, it’ll be one of the more entertaining games you’ve ever seen.
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