OAKLAND –- They play while limping, play while coughing and sometimes they play when the thermometer says they shouldn’t.
That’s what MVP athletes do, and Stephen Curry is no exception.
He’s not on the injury report. His playing time is not being restricted. But Curry is hurting after being kneed in the right calf last Wednesday. He’s getting treatment, getting iced and he’s giving the Warriors everything he has.
And three minutes of sizzling Curry was enough Monday night to pump life into Oracle Arena and give his teammates a nudge that – along with a terse halftime memo from sidelined head coach Steve Kerr – lifted the Warriors to a 122-103 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Curry missed his first six shots, four of which came from 3-point distance. He wasn’t off by much, but they all trickled out.
Then came the flurry, his first trey splashing through with 3:16 remaining in the second quarter. Another 3-pointer, with 2:13 left. A third with 1:08 left. A fourth with 51.8 seconds left.
A driving finger roll went down with 33.6 seconds left. And, finally, a fifth trey with 21.5 seconds left in the second quarter.
Scoreless with 3:17 remaining in the half, Curry had 17 points less than three minutes later.
“That’s why he’s the MVP,” interim coach Luke Walton said.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Andrew Bogut said. “With Steph and Klay (Thompson), they could have zero going into the fourth quarter and still finish with 20.”
Curry finished with 23 points, along with a career-high 14 rebounds and 10 assists – his first triple-double of the season. With Thompson pouring in a team-high 29 points and Draymond Green adding 25, the Warriors (29-1) got beyond an ugly first-half stretch to win their fifth consecutive game.
And Curry did his work despite that tender calf that spent 15 minutes soaking in his ice bucket after the game.
“The calf’s fine,” he said flatly. “The calf is fine. It’s just the regular-season grind is upon me right now. I’m just working through it.”
That’s something else MVP’s do. They dismiss the aches that don’t keep them off the floor. Seeing Curry limping after the game didn’t quite square with seeing him lighting up the Kings during the game.
His competitive instincts kicked in. Maybe it was the sight of his brother, Seth, taking the court in a Kings jersey. Maybe it was the sight of Sacramento forward Omri Casspi, who was matching Curry swish for splash late in that first half
“The fact that Omri got going is definitely part of the reason why Steph turned it up,” Walton said.
“That last four minutes of the second quarter was crazy,” Kings coach George Karl said. “Casspi made one from 26. Curry made one from 30. And Casspi made one from 32. And then Curry made one from 35.
“I don’t know how far out they were, but they looked like they were way out. It took a long time to get to the rim. Every one was in the bottom. It was great.”
The Warriors, with some pointed halftime comments from Kerr, outscored the Kings 64-42 in the second half and defeated their Northern California neighbors for the 11th consecutive time.
Despite Casspi’s show and the third-quarter ejection of enraged Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, most of the postgame talk was of Curry’s second quarter, which came without warning.
Curry had a simple explanation for his Splash Show: “I was tired of missing. That’s basically it.”
He indeed had been slumping, particularly from beyond the arc. The league’s most noted sniper entered the game having shot 9-of-32 from deep, only to miss his first four Monday night.
He was 6-of-9 behind the stripe over the remainder of the night.
Slump busted, bad calf and all.