Warriors eliminate Rockets: Stephen Curry, contrary to perception, adds to his long list of postseason heroics
There isn't another player in the world who can, in the blink of an eye, do what Curry did in Game 6
Klay Thompson called it "spurtability." I've never heard that word in my life, but whatever you want to call it, Stephen Curry's ability to go from ice-box cold to hotter than a thousand suns in the snap of a finger is, in Thompson's words, "the best in the world, [the best] in the history of the game."
What Curry did in the second half of Golden State's closeout victory over the Rockets on Friday, what he did in the fourth quarter, what he did in the final five minutes of pure winning time, was magical -- even for Curry, who has long cemented his all-time-great status by making the impossible look ordinary.
33 second-half points.
23 in the fourth quarter.
16 in the final five minutes.
All this after scoring zero -- zero! -- points in the first half on 0-of-5 shooting. Curry sat much of the first half with three fouls. Coming into Game 6, he was shooting 26 percent from 3 in the Houston series. The critics were out in full throat. Curry's overrated. The Warriors are done without Kevin Durant. Curry fails to come up clutch yet again.
These are all laughably ignorant claims, but you better believe they were out there. Curry even said after the game he heard the chirping. That would've been way too much negative momentum to just turn around for almost any other athlete. But Curry is not just any other athlete. When it comes to pure, unwavering self-belief, in the face of every kind of doubt imaginable, he is in a league of his own.
The ones who really know basketball know this.
That's Dwyane Wade, a man who knows a little something about making room for an all-time great teammate in the name of winning championships, even at the expense of his own personal glory. LeBron James also chimed in, tweeting to "never underestimate the heart of a champion."
It's a cliché because it's true: The Warriors are champions in large part because of the heart of Stephen Curry. Yes, he's the greatest shooter of all time. Yes, he's one of the best point guards ever and is trending toward Magic Johnson territory. But don't let the sizzle blind you from the gristle. This dude is tough as it comes. Mentally. Physically. The whole package. And he thrives on people continuing to underestimate that.
There has long been a narrative out there that Curry doesn't rise to the occasion in the playoffs. It's ridiculous. He has better playoff numbers on more efficient splits than Kobe Bryant. But one thing people point to is his lack of a signature playoff shot, or moment -- like Kyrie Irving's shot in Game 7, or LeBron's block, or Jordan's hanging follow-through game-winner against Utah.
Curry doesn't have one signature playoff shot because his signature is stringing a whole bunch of them together. The NBA-record 17 overtime points against Portland in 2016. A single-series record 32 3-pointers against the Thunder in the conference finals that same year. The only player in history to have multiple Finals games with seven or more 3-pointers. An NBA Finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2 against the Cavs in 2018.
Shall we keep going? How about the coming-out party against Denver in 2013, when he quite literally began changing the entire game of basketball. The 44 points in Game 1 vs. San Antonio. The 28.6 points he averaged through the 2017 Western Conference playoffs on 50-43-90 shooting splits.
And now this.
"You don't do what these guys have done without an incredible combination of talent and character," Steve Kerr commented after Game 6 about his Warriors, and the manner in which they have gone about winning three of the last four championships. "I thought Steph epitomized that tonight."
It's true. This Warriors team's defining characteristic is an unprecedented combination of talent and guts. Down 2-1 to the Grizzlies in the second-round of their first championship run, they win three straight. Down 2-1 to the Cavs in the 2015 Finals, they win three straight. Down 3-1 to the Thunder in the 2016 conference finals, they win three straight. Down 3-2 in last year's conference finals against Houston, they win two straight. Down Kevin Durant this year, they close out Houston on the road.
Indeed, a few days after Kyrie Irving and the Celtics showed us what it looks like to wither up and die as soon as the going gets tough, the Warriors, and Steph Curry, reminded us what it looks like when the tough get going. And it is a glorious thing to witness.
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