Looking back on Stephen Curry's brilliant 54-point performance

Bruce Bennett

One of the great tragedies of the 24/7 news cycle of an 82-game NBA season is that spectacular single-game performances can easily get lost in the shuffle. And that's probably especially true when a great individual performance is linked to a loss, as was the case with Stephen Curry's 54-point performance in the Golden State Warriors' loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. So before moving on to focusing on tonight's game, a quick look back at what Curry accomplished and, of course, how that relates to Monta Ellis (because clearly nobody can ever talk about the accomplishments of one without mentioning the other).

If you all are anything like me, it was hard to get too excited about Stephen Curry's 54-point performance at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night simply because the Golden State Warriors ultimately lost the game.

I know - I'm sort of a curmudgeon like that. But as SB Nation's James Herbert reports via his interview with father Dell Curry, the loss was even an obstacle to Curry himself appreciating the magnitude of the moment.

...obviously he was a little disappointed that he lost the game...I think once the season is over and he looks back, [it will]. I told him, ‘Hey, one, get a tape of the game, obviously. Save your shoes and save anything you can about that game because that's the one -- hopefully not a once in a lifetime game -- but it's going to be very hard to duplicate, especially in New York.'

Yet no matter how you "felt" after that performance, let's be real: it was, by almost any standard, an amazing night from a player who should've been named an All-Star. As Steven von Horn of SB Nation has noted, his scoring performance puts him in elite company reserved for the likes of Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Even if he's not better than Donyell Marshall and his 12 3-pointer record that's pretty good.

Moreover, as impressive as his stat line was, even more impressive was the way he scored - as Mike Prada of SBN wrote yesterday, it's the degree of difficulty of these shots that makes what Curry did so outstanding.

Curry is shooting 45 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range this year, both absurd percentages for a guard, but he's not doing it on standstill open jumpers. Curry is taking threes off the dribble, off-balanced long bombs running off screens, flick-shot runners in the lane and dipsy-doo layups that allow him to overcome his slight frame...No player, save for possibly Steph's father Dell, has a quicker release. It allows Steph to hit more difficult shots than anyone should.

It was not only a truly amazing and stunningly efficient performance, but a uniquely Steph Curry performance that was at once hardly an inimitable and hardly the type of aberration that was someone like Willie Burton or Tony Delk dropping 50 and then fading back into relative anonymity. The Curry we saw on Wednesday night wasn't just a shooter who briefly got hot but a baller who simply had his way with an opponent. Curry's ability to score from distance in so many ways is what separates him from other shooters as Dell told Herbert in a separate piece.

"I've seen ‘em all," Dell continued. "Ray Allen is still up there, [Kyle] Korver's having a good year but you think about all the guys, they're catch and shoot guys. He's doing it catch and shoot, off the dribble, runners in the lane, floaters, finger rolls, using the glass, he has an array of shots that he can use and he's very good at it. So I would definitely say he's the best in the game right now."

We've seen glimpses of Curry doing what he did at Madison Square Garden in spurts all season; Wednesday night's game was just everything coming together in an unguardable outburst to showcase of everything we've been saying about why he should be an All-Star.

So naturally, all of that made people think of Monta Ellis.

The comparison was almost too easy, as laid out by Mark Travis of But The Game Is On: as Curry gave us a spectacular showcase of skilled dominance, Ellis gave the world yet another series of OMGWHATAREYOUDOINGWOW moments culminating with a game-winner. And yes, there's that pesky bottom line: the Warriors lost with Curry while the Bucks won with Ellis, who ran out of the building before you could even bother to process the fact that he had another sub-40% shooting performance that Warriors fans are all too familiar with.

In a vacuum, it could make all the remaining Ellis fans in the Bay Area shake their heads and give the rest of us an I told you so. In reality, the Warriors have been something that they never really were during the years Ellis was the top dog: a legitimate playoff contender. Like not, hey look, we can sneak into the playoffs if we win 10 straight games and six other teams lose a whole lot but a team that is actually competitive enough to be right in the thick of things down the stretch and is generally in control of its own playoff destiny with a long stretch of home games coming up.

And as SBN's Paul Flannery notes, Curry ultimately got the better of Ellis on Wednesday night as he arguably has all season.

You know who else was feeling blue after Curry's outburst? His old running mate Monta Ellis, who knocked home an insane 30-footer at the buzzer to help the Bucks beat Houston on Wednesday, capping off a classic Monta line of 27 points on 9-for-24 shooting with 13 assists, six rebounds and six steals that no one will remember thanks to Curry's brilliance.

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