Think about this stat for a second: Thirty-seven times Stephen Curry has made nine or more 3-pointers in a game. The next-closest players to that mark are James Harden and Damian Lillard, who’ve each done it nine times. How’s that for an illustration of the gap between Curry and every other shooter who has ever lived?
On Tuesday, in one of the most anticipated games of the young season, Curry torched the Brooklyn Nets for 37 points in 29 minutes. He hit nine of his 14 3s and 12-of-19 overall, chipping in seven rebounds, five assists and two steals as the Warriors demolished the Nets 117-99 to improve to a league-best 12-2 on the season.
Curry getting MVP chants on the road is nothing new, but to hear it happening in Kevin Durant’s home arena added yet another layer to the idea that Durant, though he’s probably the best player in the world, still cannot escape the all-encompassing Curry shadow.
“He put in a ton of work. He cares about the game. He loves his teammates and plays with energy,” Durant said of Curry following the game. “So that’s what you get every night with a player like that playing at an MVP, Hall of Fame level. You got to respect it.”
This is the third time this season alone that Curry has hit nine 3-pointers. The rest of the NBA combined has one such game (hat tip to Patty Mills). Durant, who finished with 19 points on just 6-of-19 shooting on Tuesday, has been sensational this year. He’s leading the league in scoring by two-tenths of a point over Curry (28.9 to 28.7).
Durant’s shooting splits would be stupid if they were all wide-open looks; that he’s connecting at a 58-percent clip with defenders — who don’t have to be concerned with many other Nets playmakers so long as James Harden is limping his way back to his old form — draped all over him is laughable.
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But everyone was watching this game, and Curry — whose shooting, relatively speaking, has actually been somewhat erratic to start the year — was just too much. When he hit his first four 3s of the night, all of them from at least 25 feet and the final two from 30 and 35 feet, you knew it was going to be a long night for Brooklyn.
Five minutes into the second half, Curry went to the bench with the Warriors up 13. He sat the final seven minutes of the third quarter, and over those seven minutes, with Durant and Harden both on the floor for Brooklyn the entire time, Golden State extended its lead to 22.
In that third quarter, Durant, who was typically hot to start, missed all eight of his shots while committing three turnovers. Draymond Green was awesome defensively, as he’s been all season, but Durant missed shots he normally makes, too. And it cost the Nets. If they were going to get back in this game, they had to take advantage of the non-Curry minutes. Instead, Durant was a minus-17 in the third quarter.
Shortly thereafter, Steve Nash waved the white flag. Durant and Harden, with a back-to-back looming Wednesday night, went to the bench, where they sat and watched Curry cash a few more 3s before the Warriors finally played the mercy card and let their foot off Brooklyn’s throat.
Not even a quarter of the way into the season, it’s obviously way too early to start having any kind of serious MVP conversation. But Durant and Curry, probably in that order, were the clear leaders coming into this game. That has probably flipped now. The narrative of this game won’t last for long, but right now, it feels like Curry and the Warriors made a legit statement, on the road, after a dismal performance in Charlotte on Saturday.
Good teams don’t usually play poorly two games in a row, and we know great players don’t. Curry came to play on Tuesday, and Durant and company simply had no counter.