Last night, in the first game back after a whirlwind 2018 NBA All-Star weekend, Stephen Curry pushed the ball across half court as time wound down near the end of the first quarter.
He dribbled to his left, pulled one sneaky behind-the-back move — “Got by Rivers!” — and pulled up from, what ... 43 feet away? 44 feet? Buried the shot. Nothing but net. Not even the whisper of metal. The ball passed through the hoop like Doctor Strange sling-ringing his way through some time/space portal.
It was glorious to watch, and more than anything, it made me sit up and think, “Oh man, these dudes are locked and loaded, sprinting towards come-what-may for the rest of the season.”
It’s always a grind when you have a target on your back night in and night out. Every team wants to dethrone the champs. Every team wants to wipe your face in their fever-dreams. The Houston Rockets entered All-Star weekend with the best record in the league. They are winners of 10 games in a row. They have been playing ferocious, inspired basketball.
But if Steph is doing this, man.
There are only 23 games left in the regular season. 23 games to get up some momentum, hopefully stay healthy, and make the super-human push towards a potential fourth consecutive NBA Finals berth. Granted, there is A LOT of basketball to be played between now and then.
Maybe the Golden State Warriors will stumble, maybe the Rockets will finally break Chris Paul’s second-round curse. Between 23 games in the regular season, plus three playoff rounds to be won, there’s a heck of a long way to go for whichever team does end up coming out of the West.
But again, man. A rejuvenated and inspired Stephen Curry playing alongside a healthy, hungry-for-a-second-championship Kevin Durant, a playing-it-cool-literally-had-no-idea-I-just-passed-10,000-points Klay Thompson, and a gritty, don’t-give-AF-I’m-still-the-heart-of-the-team Draymond Green is a formula for some fuuuuuuuun basketball over the next four months.
We take these guys for granted, and we take for granted how insanely difficult this run must have been for them. They’ve been to the Finals three years in a row. Since 2015, they’ve been the team to beat. They’ve experienced unimaginable highs (gutting it out, persevering and willing themselves towards greatness night in and night out en route to 73 wins), and unimaginable lows (remember how sad we all were after 3-1, imagine how much more deeply they experienced that failure and how it has shaped them since).
Let us hope the Basketball Gods bless us and the league as a whole with health, passion, and hunger for competition. If all the teams keep it up, and if the Warriors can stay as locked in and engaged as they were last night, we are all in for a treat.
Bring on the rest of the season!