• Jorge Cantu

Stephen Curry Does It Again

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Nobody could have seen it coming. Of course, Stephen Curry couldn’t possibly deliver a worse half than he did after the first two quarters in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. By halftime, Curry had zero points on 0-for-5 shooting, two assists, two rebounds, a turnover, and three personal fouls in just 12 minutes of playing time. Curry was so bad and looked so off that Steve Kerr couldn’t help himself and decided to call Quinn Cook’s name to play the remaining 12 minutes at the point guard position; Cook didn’t do much better, either.

Luckily for the Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson started hot from the get-go. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Kevon Looney also making some shots was the only thing that allowed the Warriors to carry a two-point lead at halftime with yet another 24 minutes of basketball remaining in a very hostile Houston environment. The Curry slander quickly made its way to light, with mockery and never-ending questions scattered all over social media: how can a former unanimous MVP completely disappear in an elimination game with his team’s best player out due to injury? How could the best shooter in NBA history be as cold as he was tonight? Why did Stephen Curry’s woes continue right when his team needed him most?

It’s already been said, he could only do better than zero points anyway; but what ensued was one of the best second half and fourth quarter performances in Curry’s career, as he proceeded to make nine of his 15 field goals – including 4-for-9 from three – and shoot a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line on his way to scoring 33 of the Warriors’ 61 second-half points. He crushed the Rockets’ hopes of taking another step towards the top goal they’ve had for the past three years: get revenge on the Warriors.

Not only did Curry help his team with his scoring barrage, but every other shot he made late in the game felt like an even bigger dagger to Houston Rockets fans and sympathizers around the world. Each time the Rockets attempted to close the gap in hopes of forcing a Game 7, Curry came back and executed just as the Warriors’ game plan called for. He looked nothing like the first half cold Stephen Curry.

With a minute forty-five remaining in the game and the Rockets having just cut the Warriors’ lead to two after a Chris Paul driving layup, Curry caught a Draymond Green inbounds pass. He initiated his dribble and calmly headed to the right side of the court, where Eric Gordon was already awaiting to pick up Curry right as he crossed the halfcourt line. As Gordon closely guarded Curry, Draymond Green, who was being guarded by P.J. Tucker at the moment, set a screen on Gordon, which forced Tucker to switch onto Curry as the latter briefly retreated to protect the ball. Curry then continued his dribble towards the right wing, slightly hesitated, took an aggressive dribble, slowed down again, went behind his back with the ball from right to left and then back from left to right, performed a double cross right in front of Tucker, took two steps right, and shot a fadeaway three-pointer that was perfectly contested by Tucker mere inches away from the Rockets bench. As Curry’s feet came back to the ground, and with the ball still in the air, he started walking towards the Warriors’ basket with his arms swung back. That could only mean one thing: green light. Curry drilled yet another impossible shot that left the crowd in awe.

Even with about a minute-and-a-half left in the clock and the Rockets only trailing by five, it felt as if that shot was the final and ultimate dagger. How could anyone come back and fight for their lives after collectively getting hit in such a brutal manner? The Rockets were emotionally crushed as Curry did his thing again. He did what he has done time and time again for the past five seasons. And while we’ve been robbed of more chances to see Curry do his thing since Kevin Durant’s arrival to the Bay Area, there wasn’t a better time for number 30 to prove he is still a reckless assassin than with KD sidelined due to an unfortunate injury that many people thought would lead to the Warriors’ much-awaited downfall. But Wardell Stephen Curry II wasn’t about to let that happen.

We all hate the Warriors’ dominance in the sense that it’s almost a given they’ll repeat as champions this year for the third straight season. As a fan, you hate to know the final outcome of a basketball season with near-total certainty before it even starts. But there’s no denying it’s beautiful to see Curry light it up like this. He was the most liked superstar league-wide before the 73 – 9 Warriors added another all-timer to their team. He’s become arguably the most improbable villain in NBA history.

Curry and his Warriors carry a huge wave of momentum and confidence into the Western Conference Finals, where they’ll meet either the Denver Nuggets or the Portland Trail Blazers. Whoever that is, it’s safe to assume they’re not in an enviable position at all. The Warriors’ true bullet proof was a meeting with the Rockets, no matter when it was to happen. Golden State has passed their test and all we have to do is wait and see how Durant’s absence affects the Western Conference Finals. Perhaps his availability will mark the difference between the Warriors ending that series in four or five games anyway.

Still, it’s Curry who has always led the ship. This is all speculation, but I don’t think Durant would be able to put up the kind of stat line he has thus far in the 2019 NBA Playoffs if it weren’t for Curry’s magical magnetism on offense and the immense terror he creates in his opponents’ heads. Curry is so unselfish that he doesn’t mind Durant taking more shots than him if that leads to winning. That’s insane to think about when you come to the realization that there hasn’t ever been a more gifted shooter than Curry.

With Durant out for the nearby future and most of the attention back on Curry, it will be very interesting to see the type of performances he delivers in his upcoming games. And just in case things get complicated again, there is no doubt in my mind that Curry will rise to the occasion and do his thing yet again.

You can follow Jorge on Twitter @CantuNBA

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