Reports of Steph Curry’s decline were greatly exaggerated.
The two-time MVP entered the season with quite a bit of rust to shake off. He missed almost all of the previous year to injury and had played only five NBA games since the 2019 Finals, a span of 18 months. His 33rd birthday is approaching, and now he doesn’t have Splash Brother Klay Thompson alongside him for the first time. Cue the doubters, even more than usual — especially when Steph came out of the gate cold in his first five games of this campaign, shooting just 42% overall and 32% on three-pointers.
On Sunday, the chef fired up the grill and got back to cooking. Curry scored 62 points in the Golden State Warriors’ 137-122 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, setting a career-high as well as an arena record in the second year of the Chase Center.
It’s the 42nd time in NBA history that a player has dropped at least 62 points in a game, and 23 of them were by Wilt Chamberlain. Among those to never reach that total are LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and James Harden, as well as Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone, all of whom top out at 61, with Klay at 60. Only 14 other different players have hit 62, and only Devin Booker (70) and Carmelo Anthony (62) are still active.
And since this is Curry we’re talking about, his massive total came with sizzling efficiency. He shot 18-of-31 overall (58%) and 8-of-16 from deep (50%), while sinking 18-of-19 free throws (95% but feels like 122%). It was the same Steph you hope for every day, just twice as much of him. And it only took him 36 minutes on the court.
Steph Curry heard the haters. pic.twitter.com/fUq7HysQWw— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 4, 2021
Despite the final line, this Curry Flurry was not the result of a deluge from downtown, by his standards. He did ultimately hit eight shots from deep, but two of them were at the very end of the fourth quarter in garbage time — they were especially high-difficulty shots, but he took them precisely because the game was over and it was time to pad the record.
The primary reason the game was over by that point was the other work Curry did leading up to it. He cranked the energy level up to another universe, flying around the paint to deliver all kinds of dazzling layups and smooth floaters. In doing so he also drew an uncharacteristically high number of fouls, allowing him to shoot a career-high quantity from the line. The best free-throw shooter in NBA history was happy to take advantage of those many gifts, though he did miss once to break his streak of 80 straight made (fifth-longest ever).
There were occasional threes along the way, but never that signature moment where he hits a few in rapid succession to instantly change the game — at least, not until the end, when he sunk those final two daggers. Instead it was a relentless barrage of aggressive drives and inside shots and flips, steadily piling up points two at a time faster than anyone else could keep up. He found what was working for him and kept grinding.
In fact, Lillard, his only possible competition for best shooter in today’s league, seemed to lay claim to the deep game for most of this night. On three occasions Steph missed a three only to have Dame march down and confidently nail one of his own. But even with all that, at the final buzzer the box score was clear about who dominated the game. Lillard was good (32 points, 6-of-15 from deep) but Curry was legendary from all distances in a blowout victory.
62 PTS— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 4, 2021
Stephen Curry's career-high night ️ pic.twitter.com/kh1uR6ubOy
The win by the team also sets this performance apart from Steph’s previous career-high. Back in 2013, his 54-point masterpiece at Madison Square Garden came in a close loss during one of the Knicks’ brief windows of being not-awful. New York was then led by Carmelo, who also played in Sunday’s game for the Blazers off the bench.
This time around, like in Curry’s other five 50-point contests since the MSG loss, the Dubs won by double-digits.
Steph put up 21 in the first quarter alone, ensuring the Warriors avoided a repeat of Friday in Portland, when this same Blazers team put Golden State in a huge early hole. He chipped in 10 more in the second quarter, helping his teammates build a sizable halftime lead. Another 14 in the third kept the opponent at bay despite a spirited push by Portland, and a cool 17 in the fourth iced it.
Stephen Curry is the first player to score *more than* 30 points in each half of a game since 'Pistol' Pete Maravich did so on Feb. 25, 1977 for the New Orleans Jazz. (h/t @EliasSports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 4, 2021
The landslide wasn’t purely a one-man show, as Steph didn’t even account for half of the team’s lofty total and he “only” added four assists. The return of Draymond Green’s playmaking improved the flow of the entire offense (and his defense was exemplary), and four other Warriors scored in double-digits. But the whole operation fed off Curry, with his intense effort providing the spark and his cosmic gravity creating space for everyone else.
In other words, he played like an MVP. He wasn’t just the best player on his team Sunday. He gave the world the reminder they’d been clamoring for, that he’s still one of the best players in the entire league.
(Fact check: Confirmed)
Steph rules and anyone saying anything else makes no sense— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 4, 2021
Doubt Steph at your own risk. Many folks have done so over the last dozen years, and it continues to work out poorly for just about all of them. He ain’t done yet.
Now please shut up! Respectfully, proud lil sis— Sydel Curry-Lee (@SydelCurryLee) January 4, 2021