It was overdue. Klay Thompson had had his turn. Andrew Bogut's health has permitted him to excel on a consistent basis. Draymond Green even showed out on national television. But on a night against a Western Conference* (as he made sure to note that the regional difference and quality of talent in his post-game interview) playoff team without three starters and the Golden State Warriors fumbling away numerous opportunities to blow the game away, it was his turn.
Make no mistake, Stephen Curry has not functioned as an average basketball player to this point. He'd simply been overshadowed by the improvements of Thompson and the superb depth and defense of the team. On an individual basis, his defense had gotten to the point where his quickness has allowed him to smother slower point guards and strong enough to hold his own against the larger ones. The extra rest per game certainly doesn't hurt. But against the Rockets, Curry went back into the throwback machine, logging 40 minutes and turning the ball over five times. Those were the only blemishes on a 34-point outburst on 19 (!!) shots, four steals, five dimes, and ten rebounds (!!!).
The Warriors ended up outrebounding the Rockets 54-46 but were dominated on that end in the first half. They also piled up 26 turnovers to 22 assists as player after player tried make the extra pass after the extra pass. Balls were flying into the stands, off their hands in lieu of wide-open finishes, and the team was firmly in the midst of a typical letdown game. So Curry finished push shots in transition after stealing the ball from James Harden late in the third in a 16-2 run. Curry nailed step-back rainbow 3s over Kostas Papanikolaou to clinch the game. Curry stayed in the paint on missed shots and tussled with the Tarik Blacks of the world. Curry tossed side-winding passes while flipping out of bounds to Bogut for an and-one layup. Curry was the offense. And even more encouragingly, he was so very good on defense.
What most people might not want to talk about, afraid of jinxing things, is that this season might be Curry's best chance ever to win the MVP award. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are hurt. LeBron James is struggling and even if he reverts back to his normal self, will still have votes siphoned by Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are perhaps more important players to their team but unlikely to win even 40 games. The proverbial window is open for Curry and he's crashing a fighter jet through the damn glass to get in.
Just one today as the game was more a testament to bad basketball than actual things we can glean.
1. We know Bogut is a beast on defense when he's healthy. But the Warriors defensive rating of 89.2 isn't solely because of him. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala were average on offense but put together a third quarter that annihilated James Harden and everything else in its path. They'll be without David Lee for at least a couple more weeks so we can expect this defense to keep shining. There's just no letting up from the first to second unit.
Next game: in Phoenix against the Suns at 5 PM PST.