Stephen Curry entered Wednesday's meeting with the Washington Wizards on what is, for him, something of a cold run. The NBA's leading scorer at 29.4 points per game, Curry had averaged just 16.7 points over the Golden State Warriors' last three contests, shooting a mere 38.3 percent from the floor and a positively human 37.9 percent from 3-point range.
With the defending-champion Warriors set to visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, Curry evidently decided it was high time he heat up in a hurry.
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After scoring 50 points total in the last three games, Curry torched the Wiz to the tune of 51 points in just under 36 minutes of floor time, leaving those watching at home on ESPN and from the seats at Verizon Center stunned as he propelled the Warriors to a 134-121 win. The victory improves Golden State's league-leading record to 45-4, matching the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers' mark for the best record through 49 games in NBA history and keeping them one game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls during their record-setting 72-win campaign.
Curry tied a career-high with 11 made 3-pointers in 16 tries, becoming the first player in NBA history to drill 11 triples on multiple occasions. It was his fourth career 50-point game, and his second 50-plus-point outing of the season, joining his Halloween night 51-point explosion against the New Orleans Pelicans — he's the only player to hang half-a-hundred more than once this season — and it was his eighth 40-point game, which is also tops in the league.
Determined, as he explained in a post-game interview, to "come back with a better effort" than he'd offered in Sunday's win over the New York Knicks, Curry came out of the locker room fresh dipped in flames, knocking down nine of his first 10 shots and seven of his eight long balls to explode out of the frame with a 25-point first quarter:
It was Curry's seventh 20-point quarter of the season, and it saw him make a very brisk trip up a very cool list:
When the 1st quarter started Steph's season was 21st all time in 3s made. When it ended he was in 14th. He passed 7 people in 12 minutes.
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) February 4, 2016
Steph's charge up the all-time charts didn't end there:
Stephen Curry is in the top-10 for most 3-pointers in a single season after tonight. He still has 35 games left.
— Ben Cohen (@bzcohen) February 4, 2016
After the shell-shocked Wizards compose themselves and chopped their deficit down from 17 to nine with Curry and Draymond Green on the bench through the midpoint of the second quarter, Steph returned and promptly began taking advantage of aggressive Washington defense high up on the floor to attack the basket and finish finger-rolls and floaters on the interior. With the Wiz suitably crossed up, Curry winged a long-range haymaker in the final minute of the second quarter that, naturally, splashed through, helping stake Golden State to a 14-point halftime advantage:
While Curry wowed us all, though, the Wizards hung around, thanks largely to a sadly overshadowed monster game from Washington point guard John Wall, who authored a tremendous offensive effort of his own: 41 points on 17-for-25 shooting, 3-for-3 from 3-point range, 10 assists and just three turnovers in 35 brilliant minutes.
Wall dominated at the start of the third quarter, leading a 19-7 Washington run that got the Wiz within just two points at 81-79 with 7:48 remaining in the third. About a minute and a half later, though, Wall picked up his fourth personal foul, leading interim coach Don Newman — leading the Wiz in place of Randy Wittman, who has taken a leave from the team after the death of his brother — to pull his All-Star point man for the balance of the frame.
Golden State outscored Washington by nine the rest of the third. Despite Wall's best efforts and offensive punch of the pine from recently-returned-from-injury shooting guard Bradley Beal, veteran point guard Ramon Sessions and interior mauler Nene, the Wizards would never again get closer than six, as a steady diet of Shaun Livingston jumpers, Klay Thompson splashes and Curry buckets kept the opposition at arm's length to finish off the win.
After Curry capped his 51-point evening, fellow All-Star Draymond Green — who finished with 12 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, five blocks and a steal, giving him his league-leading and Warriors-franchise-record-setting 10th triple-double of the season — figured out one way to cool Steph off that the Wizards hadn't tried:
It felt almost disappointing that Curry didn't fire up another try or two late in the fourth, as the Warriors looked to hold off the still-battling Wiz. After all, the NBA's all-time single-game record of 12 made 3s — shared by Donyell Marshall and Kobe Bryant — was right there. Then again, for a player who already owns the records for most 3s in a single season (a mark he's on pace to shatter this year) and a single postseason, that record must feel like it's always right there. No shooter ever has made domination of the long-distance record books seem this inevitable, and there haven't been many who have made inevitability this much fun to watch.
Marshall sure seems to agree:
What a tremendous shooting display by @StephenCurry30 I can breathe another day. But it's only a matter of time before he breaks 3pt record
— Donyell Marshall (@Dmarsh42) February 4, 2016
You'll forgive us if we don't hold our breath waiting for Kobe to offer a similar salute.
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