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Back in May, Stephen Curry unceremoniously ejected the Memphis Grizzlies from the Western Conference semifinals with a 35-point performance highlighted by a steal followed by an obscene 62-foot bomb to beat the third-quarter buzzer, extend the Golden State Warriors' lead to 10 and make sure the grit-and-grind Grizz knew they were goners.
He has, somehow, been even more unkind to the Beale Street bullies thus far this season.
After scoring 21 of his 30 points in the third quarter of Golden State's mammoth 50-point blowout of the Grizzlies last Tuesday, Curry again tormented Memphis on Wednesday, taking over after halftime with a 17-point frame marked by even more absurd shot-making for which the Grizzlies just had no answer.
With the Warriors leading 62-58 late in the third quarter, Curry picked off an entry pass intended for Grizzlies reserve JaMychal Green and set out in transition. He stopped short to avoid Zach Randolph's swipe, corralled the loose ball after dribbling off his foot, then dribbled into the frontcourt, chased by Memphis guard Russ Smith. Curry felt a bump from Smith just as he reached the edge of the Grizzlies' center-court logo and wanted to try to get himself to the line for three free throws, so he decided to just flip up a no-hoper in the general vicinity of the basket while on the run as he went to the ground ...
... and, of course, cleanly bank it in off the box from 29 feet away, because even when he is taking shots that sound like science fiction, he is Stephen Curry, Destroyer of Worlds. He then proceeded to rail against the referees for not granting him a four-point play, because even after performing feats of unparalleled roundball strength, Pure and Unadulterated Font of Basketball Comedy.
Not content to leave insane enough alone, Curry went back to the well in the closing moments of the quarter, snuffing out a Smith entry pass — man, Memphis really struggles with entry passing against the Warriors — by jumping in the air, batting it down, retrieving it along the sideline without stepping out of bounds, dribbling into the frontcourt and letting loose a 40-foot leaner ...
... that splashed through at the buzzer, giving him 26 in the game and giving Golden State an 11-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Memphis stuck around early in the final frame, but the Warriors clamped down midway through the period, holding the Grizzlies to two points in a four-minute, 20-second span that saw the Dubs increase the lead to 17. They'd push it as high as 21 before finishing off a 100-84 win that improved the defending champs to a league-best 9-0, tying a franchise mark for consecutive wins to open a season that's stood since 1961, back when the Warriors played in Philadelphia.
Curry was again excellent in leading the way, scoring a game-high 28 points on 9-for-21 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and a block in 34 1/2 minutes. As brilliant as the MVP is, though, Golden State continues to maul opponents thanks to the strength of its depth — 10 Warriors scored Wednesday, with Andre Iguodala kicking in 20 points on just nine shots off the bench and Harrison Barnes adding 19 on 7-for-11 shooting plus four rebounds, three assists and three steals — and its defense, which held the (admittedly struggling) Grizzlies offense to 34.3 percent shooting while creating 21 turnovers that led to 25 Warriors points.
Memphis made just three of its 15 3-point tries on Wednesday. Curry made the same number, in five fewer attempts. Curry is not only on pace for a staggering 400 made triples this season — the current single-season record, which he set last year, is 286 — but he's knocked down more 3s by himself than the Grizzlies have as a team this season:
3PM made through 9 games: Steph Curry: 44 Memphis Grizzlies: 42 He's also beating BKN & MIN, but w/more gms played https://t.co/iw3YZyarxE
— StatMuse (@StatMuse) November 12, 2015
Memphis won 55 games last season and pushed the Warriors as hard as any opponent they faced in the playoffs, but there's a yawning chasm of difference between these two teams right now, as summarized by ESPN.com contributor David Thorpe:
In 4 of last 5 matchups, Warriors have beat Griz by a combined 71 points. In that 5th game they won by 50. So 5 games, + 121.
— david b. thorpe (@coachthorpe) November 12, 2015
That's an ocean of difference.
— david b. thorpe (@coachthorpe) November 12, 2015
At this point — a close win over the Clippers aside — there seems to be an ocean of difference between the Warriors and everybody ... which has some forward-thinking pundits alternately looking backward and setting their sights on a rather exciting horizon:
The 1996 Bulls outscored opponents by 101 in their first 9 games. Warriors right now? +158.
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) November 12, 2015
That '95-'96 Bulls team, you'll recall, won a league-record 72 games. Maybe Klay Thompson's not so crazy after all.
The Grizzlies, for their part, produced a second straight game in which they looked a bit more like their old selves, but came away with a second straight loss all the same.
"I thought we played really, really hard," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said after the game, according to Clay Bailey of The Associated Press. "I thought we battled. I thought we believed we could win. I still believe we can win, and we will down the line if we keep playing this hard."
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And yet, even their maxed-out center — who led the way with 26 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in perhaps his best game of the season — doesn't think that by itself will get the 3-6 Grizzlies where they want to go:
Griz center Marc Gasol after 100-84 loss to Warriors: "Playing hard is not enough."
— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) November 12, 2015
As the Grizzlies continues to search for the extra push that will get them over the top, the Warriors will look to keep the good times rolling as they head to Minneapolis to take on Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and the impressive Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of a road back-to-back as part of TNT's Thursday night doubleheader.
"We're having a great year, and we don't want to lose any time soon," Thompson said after the game, according to the AP.
If their defense stays snare-drum tight and their flamethrowing point guard keeps doing the unthinkable, they might not have to worry about that for a long, long time.
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