Prior to the Golden State Warriors' matchup with Memphis on Saturday, Stephen Curry hadn't played a game since Dec. 4 against New Orleans, when he sprained his right ankle severely enough to keep him out for 11 games.
"I felt a lot better than I thought I would," Curry told Warriors sideline reporter Kerith Burke after Golden State's 141-128 win over Memphis. "I haven't missed that much time in a long time. I've been working hard. The training staff has been pushing me the last three, four weeks to keep my body right as best I could. It showed tonight."
You can say that again.
Curry, even by Curry standards, was marvelous in his return, scoring 38 points in 26 minutes on 13-of-17 shooting. Oh, he also hit 10 threes. In 13 attempts. That's the most triples anyone has hit in a game this year. So, yeah, the guy wasn't exactly rusty. Neither were the Warriors, who won 9 of 11 in Curry's absence but looked like an entirely different monster with their resident magician back doing crazy things like this:
Halftime at Oracle: Steph Curry has 21 points and is 7-9 from the field and 5-7 from 3-point range.— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) December 31, 2017
He hadn't played in almost a month. 😳pic.twitter.com/E14fCiS4ly
Oh my goodness Steph Curry’s 1st game back sets NBA season-high for 3s in a game (10) while making Marc Gasol do the hokey pokey 🤢 pic.twitter.com/WIh34TiA2i— Wobovan Mitchell (@World_Wide_Wob) December 31, 2017
"What can you say? The guy goes 10 for 13 [from three] after not playing in an NBA game for a month," an amazed Steve Kerr said in his postgame press conference. "And even the other team went 15 for 21, even they were hot just because Steph was in the building. Steph makes everybody shoot better I think."
Everyone laughed when Kerr said this, including Kerr, who often appears as perplexed as everyone else by Curry's otherworldly ability to make the incredible seem ordinary.
"That was remarkable, to do what he did in 25 minutes, it looked like he didn't skip a beat," Kerr continued. "He just makes it look so easy, and you can feel it in the building. Everything's different. The tempo, the energy, the crowd's going nuts. Steph is special."
Curry appears to have a knack for this returning-from-injury thing. Remember when he scored an NBA record 17 points in a single overtime period against Portland in the 2016 playoffs? That was his first game back after missing four games with a sprained MCL.
But Curry and dramatics have always gone hand in hand. Now the question is whether he can sustain this shooting moving forward. If you've been paying attention, you know this has been perhaps Curry's worst shooting season to date. Prior to the Memphis game, he was making only 38 percent of his threes. Earlier this season in Miami, I listened as he told reporters that he wasn't worried about his oddly low shooting percentages, even commenting that they only seemed low in comparison to what he'd done in the past, implying that his relative shooting struggles were much ado about nothing.
But Curry was a lot more honest with The Athletic's Marcus Thompson, who wrote a terrific piece on Curry as he was rehabbing his ankle and itching to get back on the court. From Thompson:
"Yes, I'm mad about shooting 38 percent," Curry said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I think about it all the time. I obsess over it. Of course I want to get it right and make every shot."
Well, he damn near did that on Saturday. He was dead on all night. Ripping the net off the dribble, off the catch, running around with the energy of a kid who'd just gotten outside after being cooped up for a week with the flu. Have a look for yourself:
Indeed, Curry is back. And the Warriors are certainly better for it.
As is the entire NBA.