Stephen Curry Burns Clippers With 40 In LA; Warriors Earn Season’s Best Win

Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer, and then he just shrugged. There was about three minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the Golden State Warriors had cut the Los Angeles Clippers‘ 23-point lead down to two points. On the next Warriors possession, Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer gave them a 113-112 lead, their first since the score was 3-2.

In the blink of an eye, Golden State was up 124-115, having gone on a 22-3 run. When Clippers guard Chris Paul, the hero a couple of hours earlier, hit a meaningless layup with five seconds left, it was clear he had been outclassed by Stephen Curry. The best player in the NBA finished with 40 points, but wasn’t particularly happy about it.

“I gotta be a lot better than I was tonight,” Curry said in his TNT interview before leaving the court. “The stats look good, but I gotta play better.”

As a team, the 13-0 Warriors have been better than they were Thursday. But none of their other wins were as impressive as this one. Golden State gave up 41 points to the Clippers in the first quarter, 18 to Paul alone, and it didn’t string together a series of stops until the fourth. What’s telling about the Warriors is that they never came close to panicking, and their almost-impossible comeback seemed sort of inevitable.

It starts with Curry, who picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and had as many turnovers as field goals at halftime. The reigning MVP didn’t seem to care about his slow start, finishing the game 11 for 22 from the field and 6 for 14 from deep with 11 boards, four assists and three steals.

It’s not just him, though. Curry’s confidence is clearly contagious, and Golden State’s title run has the whole team believing it can do anything. Consider these two stats:

1) The Warriors are 3-3 in games in which they’ve trailed by 20 points since the beginning of last season, per ESPN Stats and Information. The rest of the league is 13-486.

2) Golden State has won its past five games in which it allowed its opponent to score 40 points in the first quarter, according to @gswstats.

To erase deficits so swiftly is a special skill. Part of that is a function of roster construction: Most other teams in NBA history haven’t had the personnel to shoot 11 for 15 from the field and 8 for 9 from 3-point range when they need to, as the Warriors did in the fourth quarter. (That’s a 100 percent effective field goal percentage, as pointed out by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.) The teams that do space the floor similarly don’t also have the ability to lock down the other team like this.

In addition to the talent, though, these guys have something else going for them. They refuse to be satisfied with themselves, and they hold themselves to the highest possible standard. Both Curry and interim head coach Luke Walton told reporters afterward that they never felt like they were out of the game.

“They don’t feel us,” Draymond Green told his teammates in the huddle when they were behind early on. “That’s why they’re hitting every shot. Stand our ground, make them feel us. And then they gotta play us down here. If they don’t feel us down there, it’s easy to guard us. We alright. A lot of time left. We OK. Stay the course.”

Green was right. When Golden State’s defense got going, its offense was unstoppable. It shouldn’t be that simple against a team as talented as the Clippers — they have two of the 10 best players in the NBA, and they were in rhythm. Normal rules don’t seem to apply to the Warriors, though. It’s starting to feel like it’ll take some sort of supernatural force to beat them. On the rare occasion that they don’t demoralize their opponents early, they break their hearts later on.

“I wouldn’t call this a rivalry,” Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin said. “They’re the better team. They have the upper hand.”

With every victory, Golden State proves it is in a tier by itself. The standings don’t even fully reflect how much the Warriors have separated themselves from everybody else. If you’re wondering what it’ll take to beat them, there’s only one proper answer: A shrug.

Story provided by James Herbert

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