Kendra AndrewsESPN3 minute reading
SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry brought the ball across midcourt with Milwaukee Bucks’ Jevon Carter right in his face. Curry sped up and then made a quick stop at the top of the 3-point arc, causing Carter to skid a few feet away.
Curry had just enough space to launch the 3rd Bang.
The shot tied the Warriors’ game against Milwaukee with 19 seconds left in regulation. And Curry was viciously mugged on his way to the bench — the stoic expression never left his face afterward.
I was tired, Curry said. “Walk slowly to the bench, take three minutes of rest. Don’t shout because that requires oxygen. Conserve energy.”
Curry scored 36 points on Saturday, leading the Warriors to a 125-116 overtime victory. Twenty-two of his points came in the fourth quarter and overtime — on 8-11 shooting, including 4-7 3-pointers. He scored 11 points in the final two minutes of regulation (all but two of his points in the fourth quarter).
But arguably, his most important play came 17 seconds after his 3 tied the game. With 2.2 seconds left in regulation, Jrue Holiday ran away from Donte DiVincenzo. It looked like he had an open lane to the hoop. But when he rose to shoot the floater, Curry met him at the top, blocking his shot.
“When you (make) a couple of big shots in a row and then you’re in a position to make plays on the other end, I think it gives everybody a good boost,” Curry said. “I think I got more compliments on that in the locker room than any shot I made tonight.”
“It was great to see him use the vertical rules and get that block,” Draymond Green said.
It was Curry’s first block inside the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime of his regular-season career (he did it once in the playoffs).
“Steph was incredible and he did it against one of the great defenders in Jrue Holiday,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s amazing to watch those two guys fight. Steph is fearless. It doesn’t matter if he started slow or didn’t have a lot of time, he can catch fire at any time.”
Golden State had a 13-point lead with 8:22 left in the third quarter. By the end of the fourth quarter, they trailed by eight. Curry was on the bench for most of this stretch. Kerr said he looked tired and wanted to save Curry’s energy for the final stretch.
“The challenge is to bring execution and focus,” Curry said. “Even when things don’t go our way — that fourth quarter when they’re up by eight points — and you slowly wear them down, that’s the belief you have to have that we can do it.”
Then Curry took off.
Curry scored 15 of his 36 points in clutch time, outscoring the Bucks 15-11 alone. Fifteen clutch time points are tied for fourth by any player this season. He is also tied for the most games played in his career.
Golden State also stepped up its defense down the stretch, competing at a high rate and forcing Milwaukee into five turnovers. Kerr opted to close with a starting lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, DiVincenzo, Green and Kevon Looney — in part because of the defense the group played while also capitalizing on offensive opportunities.
“We came out with a defensive mindset,” Green said. “When we defend, we give ourselves a chance to win.
“You don’t defend, that’s bullshit… If you don’t defend then all your shots are hard. You play against a set defense every game. For us it starts with defense and we were able to establish that tonight.”
This victory came in the Warriors’ first of three games at home and after three losses on the road. Golden State is now on a seven-game winning streak at home, while losing eight straight away from the Chase Center.
The Warriors know they have to find the magic they have at home on the road. Curry called it a “revolving door,” where the Warriors look like they’re primed for the run they’ve been waiting for, only to lose it the next night.
But they are starting to play with confidence to get there.
“Championship stuff,” Kerr said of how the Warriors closed out the game. “That’s a team that’s won four titles. They know how to do it. They did it tonight against probably the best team in the league.”