Steve Kerr, ever the stickler for detail, finally spilled the reason why Stephen Curry hit the 62-foot jump shot at the end of the third quarter to kill the Memphis Grizzlies and propel the Golden State Warriors to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 39 years.
They work on it every day.
“I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” he said in the wake of Golden State’s 108-95 win in Game 6 to close out this conference semifinal, “but before we let you in (to practice) every day, guys are firing full-court shots, half-court shots, drop-kicking balls, there’s music going. If (Kerr’s old college coach) Lute Olson would see that, he’d say, ‘Your team has no discipline.’”
But it works because this year, everything the Warriors do works. And because science follows luck, “The two best guys at it are Steph and Marreese Speights.”
So it almost had to be that Curry, in the dying moments of a third quarter in which Memphis had all but eradicated a large Golden State lead and were on the verge of leaving them stuck in the FedEx Forum floor, shot (not heaved or threw, but in rhythm and on balance shot) a ball from just inside the Memphis three-point line that hit nothing but victory.
“When he let it go, I said, ‘I think this one’s going in,’” Kerr said. “I didn’t think it was a game-ender but it stopped their momentum, and then he had the great fourth quarter.”
No, it didn’t just “stop Memphis’ momentum,” even though the Grizz had fought back from an early 15-point deficit. It came at the end of a Warrior flurry that stemmed Memphis' last comeback, after a pair of dagger-y Andre Iguodala three-pointers to that widened a 65-64 lead.
But after Iguodala, who frankly was as instrumental in winning this game as Curry, deflected a Jeff Green three that could have cut the lead back to two at 73-71, hysterical-story was made. Curry, who finished with 32 points largely on 8-of-13 three-point shooting, grabbed the loose ball and eased into his latest viral GIF. The ball veritably floated into the basket, unhindered by rim, and sucked the air from the building so completely that the only thing left to do was to call the place a gigantic Tupperware and send everyone home.
Which the Warriors did at 10:59 p.m. Central See Ya Time.
The basket, which stemmed what had been a fairly brutal period by Currian standards, sent the Warriors to the fourth quarter up 76-68, and they were never truly threatened again. It was as if even the Grizz themselves understood the severity of the wound as it was being inflicted.
“They made a push, we couldn’t get any stops, but it was interesting that we never gave up the lead,” Curry said.” We always felt confident we’d get it back together. But ‘Dre when he got that deflection, I just got it and chucked it up. It looked good all the way.”
He declined to rank the shot among the best he’s seen because it didn’t actually win a game. In fact, he credited Charlotte’s Alonzo Mourning and his free-throw-line jumper to beat the Boston Celtics in the 1993 playoffs. “I was five years old,” he said, “and my pops (Dell) got the assist, so that’s my favorite.”
That play helped the Hornets get to the Eastern Conference semifinals, which is as far as Dell ever got.
His son has now propelled Golden State to its first conference final since 1976 and only their fourth since divisions became conferences. They now return to Oakland to await developments in Sunday’s your-guess-is-as-good-as-God’s seventh game in Houston between the Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. Curry’s shot, combined with Houston’s even more implausible fourth-quarter game-cheater in Game 6 of that series, allowed the Warriors two extra days to regather their strength for what will be . . . well, hell, at this point who knows what kind of series it will be?
The Clippers haven’t done an understandable thing good or bad the entire postseason (save perhaps winning Game 4 over San Antonio to establish their bonafides), and the next person to say he or she understands the Rockets is as big a liar as all the others.
By the standards of the playoffs, these Western Conference dances have been far weirder than the usually heavily peyote’d Eastern Conference, although a lot of people will swear by the bizarre ending of the Atlanta-Washington series for laughs and tears.
There were no tears in Memphis, though. The crowd gave its heroes a standing ovation for services rendered, an oblique acknowledgement that the Grizzlies had done all they could do against a superior opponent that has access to the occult.
That is, unless you think Stephen Curry is of this world, and if you do, you’ll need to come up with proof that contradicts Friday night. And maybe the closest to proof that you’ll get is Kerr’s assertion that, yes, the fellows work on all of this madness and more before every practice. When asked how often he shoots shots like that, Curry said, “Ev-ery-day,” with emphasis.
Because, after all, you can’t spell “prep-osterous” without starting with “prep-aration.”