This article was first published on Golden Gate Sports.
Stephen Curry entered the 2012-2013 season as the only player in NBA history with career percentages of at least .470 from the field, .440 from three-point range, and .900 from the foul line. He was the runner-up for the 2009-2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He was a First Team All-Rookie selection. He won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2011. He was a Gold Medalist at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey. He has had a 54-point game. He made the most three-point field goals (272) in a single season in NBA history. Yet, for some baffling reason, Steph Curry has not been recognized as a superstar. Until last night.
Last night, the Warriors won Game 4 of their first round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets 115-101, behind an unbelievable performance from Curry. He finished the game with 31 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and four steals on 10-for-16 shooting from the field, 6-for-11 shooting from the three-point line, and 5-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line in just 33 minutes. That is an incredible stat line, but that doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic of a night Curry had.
At the end of the first half, Curry had only seven points and only one made field goal, a three. Curry had 5 assists in the first half though, because the Nuggets had employed their trap defense once again and double-teamed Curry basically whenever he touched the ball. In order to avoid turnovers, both Curry and Jarrett Jack were able to pass out of the double teams, rotate the ball, and find the wide-open man, who was often Andrew Bogut, who finished with 12 points and several monstrous dunks. Although Curry didn’t score much in the first half, he was able to showcase his passing and his ability to get his teammates involved.
About halfway through the third quarter, Curry started his scoring run. He scored 22 points in the span of about five and a half minutes, and 19 of those 22 points came in the final 4:22 of the quarter. During this run, he hit nine out of his 11 shot attempts, and, at one point, he hit eight shots in a row. Curry also hit five threes in the third quarter, which is a Warriors playoff record for threes made in a quarter.
Here are some more stats from Curry’s memorable night. With his six made threes tonight, Curry has now hit the most 3-point field goals (18) in a player’s first four playoff games ever. Also, Curry has now had three straight postseason games with 25-plus points, which makes him the first Warrior to do so since Tim Hardaway did it in 1991.
Mark Jackson claims that Curry’s performance last night doesn’t make him a superstar. In fact, he says Curry already was a superstar.
“Those guys are just coming to the hospital,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said about the people now realizing that Curry is a superstar. “The baby has been born already. We’ve been watching it all year long. He’s put this team on his back… Here’s where you recognize where the great players are.”
When David Lee went down in Game 1 with his right hip flexor injury, someone had to step up, and everyone knew who it was going to be. Curry has put on a show in every game since Lee has been out, and that’s exactly what a superstar does. Curry knew that his teammates would need him to play through his left ankle injury. He has shown an incredible toughness in the playoffs, like many other superstars have in the past, such as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan.
“He embraced the moment,” Jackson said. “It was like this was something he’s been waiting his entire life for.”
In addition to his play on the court, Curry’s personality off the court is stellar as well. Curry is one of the main leaders of this team, he’s the face of the franchise, and he’s a respectful, humble man. After last night’s game, instead of discussing his own play, he credited Bogut for getting the team off to a good start offensively. He thanked the fans for pumping them up. Curry is genuinely a good person, and that alone makes him a superstar.
“He’s a guy you point to as an example when you raise kids,” Jackson said. “It could not have happened to a better guy.”
Curry wasn’t selected as an All-Star this year, but his play this season has warranted some discussion as to whether or not Curry is one of the best point guards in the NBA. So why is Curry just now being recognized as a superstar in the NBA? Because his performance last night was even more significant than a 54-point game was or an All-Star appearance would’ve been.
Statistically, in last night’s game, Curry scored a significant amount, distributed the ball, and shot the ball efficiently. Physically, Curry was playing with a badly sprained left ankle that was causing a lot of pain in the first half. Curry overcame the pain though, because he knew that his team needed him to contribute offensively with Lee out and Klay Thompson struggling. The fact that this type of performance came in a playoff game makes it even more special. The great players perform best when the pressure is on the most. Leading the series 2-1, Game 4 was a must-win for the Warriors, because the Nuggets would’ve regained home-court advantage with a win. Curry put on this shooting display in one of the most important games of the Warriors season. Curry’s performance tonight could possibly propel the Warriors into the Western Conference semifinals, so should Curry be considered a superstar now? Absolutely.