SAN ANTONIO – Stephen Curry sent out a memo Sunday night regarding the MVP race, and nobody got a closer look at it than the San Antonio Spurs.
With speculation forming over whether Curry will be a unanimous choice for the award, the Warriors guard delivered an impressive promotional campaign during a 92-86 victory at AT&T Center.
In the marquee game featuring teams with the best records in NBA history, with the Warriors needing a win on a court where they never win — and where the Spurs had not lost all season — Curry put on the kind of show that surely will linger in memories when MVP ballots are cast.
It wasn’t so much the 37 points, on 13-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, as it was the 26 second-half points that put away the most formidable of opponents.
“They just exploded because Steph just took over the game,” Spurs forward David West said. “We weren’t able to get to him and keep bodies in front of him.”
And, boy, did they try. The Spurs sent defenders large and small. They tried trapping Curry. They tried baiting. They tried everything short of nailing him to the floor.
“In a 48-minute game, you try to make him work a lot and take some tough shots,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said. “The times that you get distracted, those are buckets. If he ends up making four or five threes contested, then it is OK. But if it is because of distractions then that is when you start to get upset because you failed following the game plan.”
Curry played 18 minutes in the second half, making 9-of-14 shots, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and all five of his free throws. With a slow, low-scoring first half, he was determined to push the pace at both ends.
“With the score being what it was and our poor shooting percentage, if we could turn stops and rebounds into transition opportunities and get them on their heels . . . that’s when we’re at our best anyway, but especially against them . . . you don’t want to let them set their defense,” Curry explained. “We got a few opportunities to push, get some 3s in transition, get to the lane and move the ball and push the tempo, which we thrive off of.”
His timing was impeccable. After the Spurs opened the second half with an 8-0 run that gave them a 43-35 lead with 10:03 left in the quarter, Curry responded by scoring 13 points in a span of 5:27, giving the Warriors a 59-55 lead with 3:04 left.
The Warriors never trailed again. They won in San Antonio for the first time in forever. They won for the 72nd time this season, with a chance to become the first team ever to win 73.
“Steph got away from us for a while, but part of it was some bad shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We lost our poise for about a three-minute period and we were in constant transition, and he got away from us. And that was the difference in the game.”
For those who may have been reexamining Curry’s credentials after a few unspectacular days, well, this was an unsubtle reminder.