OAKLAND — Despite missing 31 regular-season games last season with various ailments, Stephen Curry didn’t have any surgical procedures this offseason. Instead, he spent a month resting. Then, he had what he called the best summer of his NBA life.
Curry, 30, spent most of July in the Bay Area, didn’t make any of his usual business trips or vacations abroad, he spent time with his newborn son, he played in golf tournaments and carved out time every day for basketball.
On Wednesday, Curry had no fewer than three 3-pointers from 32 feet or beyond, broke his own NBA record for the second time in two games, set a career-best with 51 points at Oracle Arena and rained down double-digit 3-pointers for the 10th time in his career. Curry’s absurd shooting display — 15-of-24 and 11-of-16 in just three quarters — was more than enough to make the Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards disappear, 144-122.
With six 3-pointers on Monday against the Suns, Curry had broken his record for the most 3-pointers in the first four games of a season. After scoring 31 points in the first half on Monday, Curry’s first three after halftime– with under nine minutes to go in the third quarter — broke his own NBA record for 3-pointers in the first five games of a season. Curry set both of those records in 2015-16, the year he was the league’s unanimous MVP.
That season, en route to winning the second of his back-to-back MVP trophies, Curry set personal bests for threes per game (5.1), field goal percentage (50.4), effective field goal percentage (63.0), rebounds (5.4 per game), steals (2.1 per game) and points (30.1 per game). Entering Wednesday, he’d posted career-bests in field goal percentage (52.9), 3-point percentage (46.8), effective field goal percentage (65.9) and points (30.5), while coming close in rebounding (5.0) and assists (7.8 to his career-best 8.5 in 2013-14).
With his performance on Wednesday, Curry now currently has more 3-point field goals (33) than the Los Angeles Clippers (29), the Los Angeles Lakers (29), the Miami Heat (30), the new Orleans Pelicans (31), the Memphis Grizzlies (32), Cleveland Cavaliers (28), the Chicago Bulls (26) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (26).
Golden State didn’t play much defense on Wednesday, allowing the Wizards to shoot 51.1 percent from the field in the first half, but they didn’t really need to. Curry turned in his sixth game at Oracle with 45 points or more, and his 15th overall. He went 11-of-16 from three, hit all 10 of his shots at the free throw line, pulled down four rebounds and dished out three assists.
Curry hit his first five from beyond the arc, including a 32-footer and a 34-footer one possession apart, after which he long-kicked backwards into Golden State’s defensive set.
Curry was so dominant in a 23-point first quarter Wednesday that Kevin Durant — who crossed over Jason Smith for his first of five straight buckets and a 10-point stanza — was a non-story. Same old Durant, same old impossible-to-defend shooter. Curry’s long-distance wizardry, though, found new ways to dazzle.
Even when he wasn’t beyond the arc, Curry was too good even for a video game. While getting fouled with just under two minutes to go in the first quarter, he hit the mother of all finger rolls, which soared high above the backboard and dutifully bounced into the basket. It didn’t count, of course, but he hit the two free throws to make up for it. After the first, MVP chants echoed throughout Oracle. Curry went 8-of-11 from the field, and 5-of-6 from three in the first 12 minutes.
While Curry sat for the first 4:25 of the second quarter, Jordan Bell — who had figured to see increased minutes with the Wizards missing Dwight Howard — took the lead. After seeing just 6.3 minutes per game over the first four — and not playing at all against Utah — Bell slammed home two dunks in six second-quarter minutes, including a lob from Draymond Green that came in behind his head. Bell finished 4-for-4 from the field in a season-high 20 minutes.
Curry quickly seized the game back, though, with a side-step three in the far corner to give Golden State a 71-61 lead. As the quarter expired, he crossed Thomas Satoranski over twice, seemingly just because he could, and then nonchalantly passed off to Green for a jumper.
Curry’s first-half line: 10-of-14, six 3-pointers, 31 points, 20 minutes. Durant, playing second fiddle, had the quietest 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting one could ever hope to see. Durant finished with XXX points, including an exclamation point dunk with 9:20 to go in the game.
Lost in Curry’s overall excellence wasn’t just Durant, but Green and Klay Thompson as well. After missing much of the preseason with a nagging knee injury, Green looked to be getting his legs back under him, conditioning-wise, and dished out XX assists, including 9 in his first 11 minutes.
Thompson — who had been shooting 13.6 percent from beyond the arc this season and 37.3 percent from the floor — went 8-of-16 for 19 points, going 1-of-4 from three.
With 4:15 to go in the third quarter, Durant couldn’t finish the alley-oop on a behind-the-back, over-the-head pass from Curry on the break, so Curry grabbed the rebound, hit a three from the corner and drew a foul as he tumbled into the Washington bench. As he counted off four points on his hand, the crowd once again chanted MVP.
Moments later, after Markeif Morris hit a nifty baseline jumper, Curry responded with a corner three. The next trip down the court, after an Andre Iguodala miss, Curry stepped back and hit his 10th triple. As he backed his way up the court, he shrugged three times. The arena went wild. Again.
Oracle only got louder as he hit his 11th three — this one on the run — leaning in from 32 feet out to give Golden State a 115-93 lead with a minute to go in the third. In Oracle’s final season hosting the Warriors, Curry gave the old girl another moment: His sixth career 50-point game, tying his personal-best in Oakland.
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