CHICAGO — Even if you disdain basketball like your scorned ex-girlfriend, you’ve probably heard of Steph Curry, the shooting star who directs the offense for the Golden State Warriors.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard is a three-time NBA champion, a two-time league MVP and a six-time All-Star, credentials that will, upon his retirement, merit a guaranteed enshrinement in the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Fame.
Just 31 years young, and still at the peak of his athletic prime, Curry’s stamp as one of the greatest to ever play the game is a continuing tale. Two days ago, in the crucible of these 2019 NBA playoffs, he burnished his legacy with a performance for the ages.Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals at the Toyota Center in Houston was the time and place.
Facing their bitter rival Rockets, the Warriors were 7.5 points, underdogs, as they marched on the road without leading scorer Kevin Durant, who suffered a calf strain in the third quarter of Game 5, which Golden State won to take a 3-2 series lead. Curry had the worst first-half imaginable, 0-for-5 from field. He picked up three quick fouls and played only 12 of the possible 24 minutes.
It was the first time in 102 playoffs games that Curry was held scoreless in the first half.But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And, man, did he finish like a champ. Curry woke up from a deep slumber beginning in the third quarter, where he scored 10 to keep the Warriors from being blown out of the Toyota Center.
And with his team trailing 87-82 entering the last stanza, Curry went ballistic.In a masterpiece that will go down in NBA playoffs lore as easily one of the most clutch, Curry got hot in the fourth quarter and burned the Rockets with 23 points, including eight straight free throws in the final 30.1 seconds to preserve Game 6 — 118-113.
We knew Steph was capable of this kind of shooting havoc, but the way he did it — with a dislocated finger on his left hand — is the stuff of legend. It invites appreciation from his ardent fans, it draws begrudging admiration from his critics.
With their reign challenged, and their greatness questioned, the Warriors answered with an emphatic group effort that eliminated the Houston for the fourth time in five years.
And while the Rockets head home to ponder a long off-season, the Warriors advance to the Western Conference Finals against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
James Harden, the reigning MVP, led the Rockets with 35 points while Chris Paul turned in his best game of the series with 27 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. But Houston’s 1-2 punch didn’t have enough support from their complementary pieces.
The Warriors, on the other hand, saw Klay Thompson carry the offense while Curry was finding his way. The other half of the Splash Brothers, Thompson had 27 points on the strength of seven 3s, while veteran Andre Iguodala added 17.
Much maligned for being thin and underwhelming, the Warriors bench came through with 33 points, outscoring the Houston’s reserves by 16 points. “A night like tonight doesn’t happen without belief in myself,” Curry told reporters at the post-game press conference.
I believe in Curry, too.
And that is why I am certain that the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors will win their third straight title when everything is dribbled and shot sometime in next month’s NBA Finals.