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Stephen Curry tops himself with record-breaking 50-point performance to lead Warriors past Kings

stephen curry

Once he finished draining shots and carrying his team with another dramatic performance, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry poured out his emotions.

With his mouthpiece dangling, Curry yelled. He clamped on the mouthpiece some more. And then he lifted his right hand before pushing it down to slam on an imaginary object.

“Light the beam!!” Curry said with both an excited and mocking tone on the Sacramento Kings’ gesture following every win.

Not only did the moment capture Curry’s elation minutes before the Warriors cemented a 107-100 over the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 of their first-round series. It captured the edge that Curry played with to ensure a postseason career-high 50-point performance while shooting efficiently from the field (20-for-38) and from 3-point range (7-for-18).

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We have witnessed Curry perform the spectacular so many times over his 14-year NBA career. We have seen him become the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. We have seen him become the NBA’s first unanimous league MVP. We have seen him collect four NBA titles and one Finals MVP. We have seen him post higher scoring numbers in nine regular-season games.

But we never saw Curry do what he just did in the Warriors’ latest win. He scored the most points in a Game 7 in NBA history. He became the first player since the 1996-97 season to score 30 points in the second half of a Game 7. And he did so for reasons beyond his deft shooting stroke.

Stephen Curry puts Warriors on his back

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Though Curry often plays with joy, he also plays with an edge. Though Curry likes to make his teammates feel empowered, he also knows how to carry them. Never did the Warriors need Curry to unleash those qualities as he did in Game 7.

Eager to taste their first playoff win since 2006, the Kings’ passionate fan base greeted the Warriors with boos, cowbells and taunts. No matter. After already collecting a signature Game 5 road win last week, the Warriors made their 11-30 regular-season road record irrelevant once again. Curry easily blocked out the noise. He smiled through the insults. Following certain makes, Curry dished his own trash talk.

The Warriors may also pride themselves on embodying a strength-in-numbers identity. But in Game 7, the Warriors showed serious cracks. Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins posted 17 points while going only 5-for-16 overall and 1-for-5 from 3-point range. After missing nine of his first 10 shots, Warriors guard Klay Thompson had only 16 points while shooting 4-for-19 from the field and 2-for-10 from deep. And Warriors fourth-year guard Jordan Poole had eight points on only a 3-for-9 clip.

The Warriors absorbed that partly because of Draymond Green’s stellar defense and Kevon Looney’s unmatched effort on the glass (21 rebounds) and on other hustle plays. But most of it traced back to Curry.

Normally, the Warriors pride themselves on a balanced offense. But in this case the best offense entailed letting Curry hoist up shots. They didn’t just have him run in isolation. They set screens for him. They ensured proper spacing. But Curry mixed his approach with firing from deep and attacking the basket.

Not just a shooter anymore

Curry has long since shed the preconception that he is just an elite shooter. He moves efficiently and quickly off the ball to throw his defenders off balance. He knows how to create his own looks by relying on his sharp playmaking skills and his teammates setting solid screens. And thanks to his off-season work with bulking both on his upper body and legs, Curry also drives with force both to absorb contact and to give it.

It seems fitting then that Curry performed this way in the Warriors’ most important game of the season. He has often had to fulfill this job description this season through tough circumstances.

The Warriors’ locker room dynamic went awry following Green’s infamous punch on Poole during training camp. Golden State struggled with becoming an elite defensive team, even with Green and Looney offering their usual consistency.  It didn’t help that Wiggins missed 22 consecutive games to attend a family matter. Though the Warriors supported him publicly and privately, they sorely missed his perimeter defense and secondary scoring. In his first full season since returning from two consecutive season-ending injuries, Thompson remained a work in progress on both ends of the floor. And following a breakout performance last season that yielded an extension, Poole played erratically on offense and defense.

The Warriors remained in the playoff picture, however, because of Curry. For all the concerns those around the league harbored about the Warriors’ ability to defend their NBA title, they also argued that would be foolish ever to bet against Curry. He averaged 29.4 points while shooting 49.3% from the field and 42.7% from deep. Those numbers mark the third best of his career only behind his unanimous MVP season in 2015-16 (30.1 points, 50.4% from field, 45.4% from 3) and in 2020-21 (32 points, 48.2% from field and 42.1% from 3).

So as Curry showed in Game 7 against Sacramento, he still has it in him to add another layer to his legacy. He will carry his team when the moment calls for it. He will perform the spectacular with both his flashy shotmaking and his gritty hustle. And even if he often does this with a smile on his face, he won’t hesitate to talk trash along the way.  

Mark Medina is an NBA Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram

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