Warriors hope Steph Curry's buzzer-beater is cleansing of soul they need

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Steph's buzzer-beater might be cleansing of soul Warriors need originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – After stumbling and tumbling through most of the month, the Warriors on Friday night finally got what they desperately needed when the man best equipped to lift them upright grabbed them by their collective collar.

Stephen Curry’s buzzer-beating, step-back jumper from just beyond the free-throw line delivered more than a mere victory. This 105-103 win over the Rockets represented a cleansing of soiled souls.

“We needed it, obviously,” Curry said after the first walk-off shot of his 13-year NBA career..

“A great, great win,” coach Steve Kerr said. “One of the best wins of the season under the circumstances of where we are right now.”

The Warriors, atop the NBA on Christmas Day, visualizing an extended postseason run, found such relief in dispatching a 14-32 team in January that they indulged their biggest on-court postgame celebration since the Game 4 series-clincher in the 2018 NBA Finals.

“We’ve been struggling a bit as of late, we struggled a bit in that game, and we found back,” Kevon Looney said. “We fought hard and Steph hits an amazing shot, one of those shots you dream about in the driveway, a walk-off game winner.

“To celebrate with him is an amazing feeling. Hopefully that can carry over and we can start playing some better basketball.”

It has been a turbulent the past few weeks for the Warriors, who had lost four of their last six and seven of their last 12. The defense that was supposed to define them has gone to sleep, and the explanation is more complicated than the absence of Draymond Green. The shooting that was supposed to sustain them has abandoned them, and it runs too deep to blame it on Curry’s slump.

There have, however, been some issues with the “adjustments” required to integrate Klay Thompson into a system he knows well with a roster he hardly knows at all. That, however, is no excuse for flat-footed defense and missing open shots.

The Warriors came into Chase Center still aching after stunning loss to an emaciated Pacers’ roster on Thursday and mired in the driest ditch they’ve known with Curry, Green and Thompson all generally active and able. They’ll stay there until Curry recovers his missing game.

The Warriors are built around Curry, have been for years. When he’s thriving, and Green and Thompson are at their best, with the others soaking in Spirit of Steph, they’re elite. When Curry is out of the lineup, no matter what anyone else does, they can be no better than competitive. When he’s performing at a level appreciably below his standard, as he has been for more than a month, and no one else raises their game, they’re snack food for the league.

Curry knows that, which is why he conveyed in a pregame meeting the what was needed to erase the loss to Indiana, the worst setback of the season. The was a fury in the room, and everybody felt it and nobody wanted more of that bitterness.

“The last 48 hours have been (rough), with the way we played, grinding out last night, going into overtime, losing, the disappointment with that and then coming in this game, back-and-forth, just grind it out mentality we had, resilience we showed,” Curry said.

“We gave ourselves a chance. The second half was impressive. It reminds you to keep the big picture perspective of what we’re trying to do but also, realize what it takes to continue to try to win at this level and I just like the way we fought.”

The hope is that the such a marvelous moment, punctuating his 22-point, 12-assist performance will set Curry right. If Steph is right, success is imminent.

“Steph is always going to make a huge impact on the team,” Kerr said. “He will have some stretches where he is scorching and then have some cold stretches. That’s all a part of it.

“I’m hoping – and I mentioned that to the guys – that this is the first game where we remember how hard you have to play and actually start a streak where we establish that baseline of work and grit and fight and energy and enthusiasm, because it takes all of that stuff, especially when you’re facing adversity with the injuries and schedules and everything else. It was a good reminder and, hopefully, this is the start of us getting back on track.”

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The Warriors are going to win some games and lose others. They will win many more games and lose a lot less often if Curry is playing as he typically does.

His shooting was brutal early, missing 10 of his 11 shots. He made five of his last 10, including the one that mattered most.

Maybe the joyous conclusion is the vibe the Warriors have been seeking since New Year’s Day. A victory but one that comes with redemption and catharsis. Someone making the big shot. That it was Curry makes it a most encouraging sign.