With 5:12 remaining in the second quarter of Sunday afternoon’s game between the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the shooting slump that has bedeviled Stephen Curry of late officially became ridiculous.
Sure, Steph entered Sunday mired in the worst deep freeze of his professional life, having made just 37.1 percent of his shots over the previous three games, including a woeful 4-for-31 mark (12.9 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc. But even if you sloughed that off as just a weird blip on the radar screen for the game’s best shooter, after watching Curry — a career 90.4 percent free-throw shooter who has led the NBA in free-throw percentage three times in seven full seasons, and who had missed just 23 freebies in 275 attempts this season — miss both ends of his trip to the stripe, it seemed reasonable to conclude that something might be well and truly amiss. (Maybe it was all that eerie quiet.)
And yet, even as Curry’s accuracy remained AWOL, Warriors coach Steve Kerr insisted that the two-time-reigning NBA Most Valuable Player keep the faith:
And wouldn’t you know it? After that “Carry on, my son,” Steph ceased being so wayward and started to more closely resemble Stephen Freaking Curry:
After opening Sunday’s game 4-for-13 from the floor and 2-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half, Curry finally thawed out in the third quarter. Just over a minute into the frame, he ducked behind a screen in transition and knocked down a deep 3 that moved him past Chauncey Billups and into 10th place in NBA history in made 3-pointers. He’d crank up the temperature later in the third, scoring 12 points in the last 4:38 of the period on perfect 5-for-5 shooting, including a whirling drive for a layup and a pair of late 3s to give Golden State an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Dubs would push the advantage to 13 early in the fourth, but the Knicks refused to go away, drawing back within one point on a 3-pointer by Kristaps Porzingis midway through the quarter. But then Curry fed running buddy Klay Thompson — who’d begun his own de-icing earlier Sunday, scoring 14 first-quarter points to shake off three frigid affairs — for a bomb that put Golden State back up by four to stem the New York run.
A few more stops and an evil stepback jumper by Curry over the outstretched arms of Carmelo Anthony later, and the Warriors had held on for a 112-105 win that ended their losing skid at two games, improved their NBA-best record to 51-11, and gave them their first victory since losing Kevin Durant to a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee last week.
Curry finished with a game-high 31 points on 11-for-24 shooting, including a 5-for-13 mark from 3-point land, to go with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals — not to mention one huge monkey off his back — in 37 minutes of work. From Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:
After spending the last few days seeing plenty of great looks simply refuse to fall through the net — including those two second-quarter freebies — they finally did start to drop after halftime, validating Curry’s confidence in continuing to fire, returning him to his familiar role of strafing opposing defenses, and restoring the Warriors’ winning ways.
“We knew we’d be fine,” Curry said after the game, “getting back to who we are.”