SACRAMENTO, California – As the Golden State Warriors called their final timeout, Stephen Curry slapped the ball
SACRAMENTO, California – As the Golden State Warriors called their final timeout, Stephen Curry slapped the ball. He slapped it again before pointing and uttering the phrase that has become his first-round opponent’s rallying cry: “Light the beam!”
Curry almost single-handedly lifted the Warriors to a 120-100 victory against the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 of their Western Conference series on Sunday.
Curry scored 50 points on 20-of-38 shooting, the most in an NBA Game 7 in history. Curry is the first player in Warriors history to score 40 points or more in a Game 7.
“There’s a reason he’s a two-time MVP, a Finals MVP, because he pushes us over the top in moments like this,” said Warriors colleague Klay Thompson. “When he’s in that zone, you just try to get him in his spots, get him the ball, and get out of his way.” This is the Game 7 that I will always remember as the Steph Curry game.”
This was the Warriors’ seventh Game 7 appearance in the last ten seasons. From losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round in 2014 to accomplishing a 3-1 comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016, to giving up a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, all of them have some sort of recognition or reputation. Then there was the game in which the Houston Rockets missed 27 consecutive three-point attempts in 2018.
“You can always go into your memory bank of how you feel in these types of environments because there are still nerves and butterflies,” Curry explained. “Once the ball drops, it’s just playing basketball at the end of the day.”
Thompson told ESPN that this Game 7 victory was the most satisfying of his career. Golden State forward Draymond Green concurred, citing Curry’s actions.
“You mention the last dance… that kicks things up a notch.” “So this one feels very special,” Green remarked. “It was amazing to watch Steph dominate the game. These are the times — I’m a basketball fan, and you can enjoy it as a fan. But as his teammate, that’s the guy you want to fight alongside. He left no room for doubt.”
“The performance Steph put on,” Green said, “you look at all the things we have gone through as a team, to win Game 5 here and then go home and lay an egg, to come back here on the road and do it all over again, and do it even better, that speaks volumes.”
Curry contributed to 66 of Golden State’s points in Game 7. He assisted on 53 of the Warriors’ 100 attempted field goals as a result of one of his shots or passes.
His 38 attempts were the highest in an NBA game, and his 22 points in the paint were also a career record.
Curry’s performance inspired Warriors coach Steve Kerr to declare him one of the game’s best players.
But it was also a necessary effort for the Warriors to advance.
Curry received little support from his teammates in the first half, as Thompson shot 1-of-10 and Jordan Poole scored only five points. The Warriors seemed to be outmatched by the Kings in the first 24 minutes. Despite this, they trailed by only two points at halftime.
Finally, about halfway through the third quarter, the Warriors awoke. The difference was their presence on the boards: Golden State had 23 rebounds to Sacramento’s nine, 13 of which were offensive, which matched for the most in any quarter in the previous 20 seasons (regular season or playoffs).
Kevon Looney was an instigator once more, collecting 10 of the Warriors’ third-quarter rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive glass. Following Looney’s offensive rebounds, the Warriors shot 3-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line.
The Warriors slowed the Kings down by rebounding, seizing control of the game and attempting 10 more shots in the third quarter. They outscored Sacramento by 22 points in the second half, tying for the fifth-largest point disparity in an NBA playoff game.
Curry scored 30 points in the second half, becoming the first player since 1996-97 to do it in a Game 7 in any season.
“When you see something that works, you’d be a fool not to stick with it,” Green explained. “When Steph gets the ball and slows down, he’s looking for something.” And each time we did that, we got where we wanted to go. We rushed when the chance presented itself, but when it didn’t, let’s slow down and have a good look.”
The Warriors didn’t put much emphasis on getting Curry the ball early on. The greatest improvement on offense was improved space, which Kerr described as “a disaster” in Game 6.
Curry was the early benefactor of the spacing, and he gradually took control.
“He’s Steph Curry,” Kerr pointed out. “He’s really good. His approach to these games is that he will come out swinging. He hit 18 threes. There was only one turnover. He was able to assault and be quite aggressive because he had room.”
Game 7 mirrored the whole series: the Warriors appeared outmatched early, missing five of their first six 3-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Kings were preparing their meals.
The Warriors, on the other hand, kept close. And when it came down to it, they were able to slam the door shut.
Golden State became the 22nd reigning champion to fall behind 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. With the win, the team became the fifth to come back and win the series. When trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, the Warriors are now 1-9 all-time.
“We’re defying the odds by still playing at this high of a level,” Curry added. “I know everyone wants you to fail. That’s the nature of where we are right now. We enjoy it when we continue to prove a lot of people incorrect. It’s now part of our attitude.”
The Warriors will now meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semifinals, with Game 1 in San Francisco’s Chase Center on Tuesday.
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