Curry ignites to spark Warriors past Kings

Stephen Curry is proving to be even more ridiculous, more insanely talented, and more explosive than anyone ever could have expected.

Monday night, Curry was held scoreless until late in the second quarter, before a flurry of long-distance threes ended a close first half and set the table for a familiar 122-103 Warriors rout of the Sacramento Kings.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Oracle Arena.

With 3:16 left in the half, Curry took a shot from distance. Good. Another made triple, then another, actually five in a row, as he and Kings forward Omri Casspi traded made threes from various East Bay BART stations. Curry would knock back 17 of his 23 points in the first half’s final minutes.

Curry’s outburst rivaled the most amazing in Warriors history, short of some of nights Wilt Chamberlain made the league create new rules, because the game just wasn’t fair anymore.

That’s the kind of thing Curry has become known for: The human torch being all but inextinguishable, and hot darn, was he ever on fire.

By the end of the third quarter, Curry’s line was truly great, even by the standards of the reigning NBA MVP: 23 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds.

Curry’s first made triple, a 26-footer which he took while only planting his right foot, had all the makings of spilled gasoline.

His second — a 23 foot pull-up jumper less than a minute later — was the match that set Oracle ablaze, and with it, the Kings’ hope for victory.

Oh, and just for the round mound of rebound, Charles Barkley, Curry mixed in a driving finger roll, slicing through traffic like Michael Jordan in his prime.

The Warriors trailed at halftime 61-58, after a torrid start was tempered by a Kings run that saw a 10-point Warriors lead become a deficit as large as 11 points, starting in the final ticks of the first quarter.

It was hard to process, at least momentarily, that a Kings squad which has seen several coaches and different owners in the last five seasons could actually challenge the champs.

The Warriors, no doubt, were struggling. Curry’s lights-out shooting spree helped the Dubs to a comfortable spot, still playing from behind, but with momentum on their side.

It wasn’t a pretty showing from the Warriors, who have been hot and cold at times, but generally find the right grove. Interim head coach Luke Walton called it a pick up game, referencing the first half. Center Andrew Bogut called it “open gym.”

Whatever it was, things changed following a spirited talk from head coach Steve Kerr, out indefinitely while he battles back issues.

Kerr’s message was relayed by Walton:

“Steve had a nice message about this isn’t who we are. This is what they’re trying to turn the game into. And we’re falling into it. I think that the guys responded well, and like I said, the second half was much more of who we are.”

Bogut’s take was more to the point:

“His message was, you guys suck and you need to pick it up, pretty much. What the hell are you guys doing? He basically said that this is like a summertime game. Just throw the ball up, and that’s what it felt like.”

It seemed to be a consensus in Golden State’s locker room that Kerr’s message was on point. Sacramento baited them into a sloppy style of ball, and the Warriors took it, hook, line and sinker.

Sloppy turned ugly for a moment in the third quarter when Kings star DeMarcus Cousins was ejected after a brief yet intense conversation with the officiating crew following a foul call.

That wasn’t the only thing going, though, the Kings have a guy who is playing as good as Curry, maybe even better.

Sacramento had their own hero in the loss, as Casspi hit nine threes and chipped in 36 points. His three-pointer total was the most by a Warriors opponent since Rodrigue Beaubois in 2010, and the most by a Kings player since Mike Bibby sunk nine triples versus the Suns in 2007.

Walton said that the Warriors weren’t surprised by Casspi’s night, noting a 60-something shooting percentage from deep over the last five games.

And Curry, the baby-faced assassin, was gunning down shots like an instructor at Marine sniper school. And he stepped it up to another level Monday evening.

Monday night was the first time a Warriors guard grabbed 14 rebounds since Kelenna Azubuike did in 2009, and coincidentally, against the Kings.

Curry could have topped it, but didn’t play one second of the fourth quarter. With Golden State leading by 20 midway through the third period, there was simply no reason to have him on the floor.

Especially after feeling some tightness on Christmas Day while hosting Cleveland, and leaving the game for the locker room for a few moments.

Golden State’s dominance continued through the second half, and by the end of the third quarter, they had three players with 20 or more points: Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Curry.

Thompson finished with 29 points, two assists and five boards, Green notched 25 points, four assists and eight rebounds.

The team also got a solid push from the unlikeliest of candidates, guard Ian Clark, at least when considering his status as a possible roster cut during training camp.

Golden State’s 15th man scored nine points, with three rebounds and a block.

On a night following comments from former Warriors head coach and current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, who said Curry is hurting the game because youth players are focusing too much on the long range shot, there were 33 three-point shots made.

The night may have proven Jackson bitter rather than correct, the former team leader turned talking head saw one amazing show of precision from the arc.

Certainly enough to hurt the game, just not the Warriors side of things.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors.