Stephen Curry twirled an arm in the air to acknowledge a small cheering section of family members in a near-empty arena, then gleefully disappeared down the tunnel to celebrate the best scoring night of his career.
Curry let it fly from way out under pressure with a minute left for another perfect swish on the way to a career-high 62 points, and the Golden State Warriors beat Portland 137-122 on Sunday night to split the two-game set with the Trail Blazers.
“I love it. I love everything about what this game offers, the competitiveness and the fire,” Curry said. “I never run from it. Just excited to be in that atmosphere where I get to play at the highest level and do what I do.”
Curry delivered the highest-scoring game in the NBA this season early in his 12th campaign, finishing 18 for 31 and eight of 16 on three-pointers after beginning with a 21-point first quarter. He had his 10th career 30-point half to help the Warriors take a 66-54 at the break, then doubled his total exactly with his teammates telling him his count at every chance.
“He was making every shot within like 10 seconds and we couldn’t even keep up,” rookie James Wiseman said.
One small blemish in his brilliant night: Curry had his streak of free throws snapped at a franchise-record 80 in the first. The run dated to March 2019.
“And then he just choked. It’s just incredible,” cracked coach Steve Kerr, who jokingly offered the game ball to Wiseman before handing it over to the most deserving recipient.
Against Portland, Curry made a career-high 18 of his most attempts yet at 19. The 6ft 3in Curry even took it right at imposing seven-footer Jusuf Nurkic. “He did a little bit of everything,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
This kind of night was a long time coming after a broken left hand limited Curry to five games in the coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season.
“When you have something to be excited about you kind of feed off your own energy,” said Curry, who says the “great ones” learn how to block out the critics and embrace expectations.
When he sat down for good in the waning seconds and received hugs from teammates, the piped in crowd noise seemed extra loud in an arena devoid of real fans.
“It’s just a privilege to coach him, it really is,” Kerr said.