OAKLAND – The Clippers rolled into Oracle Arena on Sunday believing they had as good a chance as any team in the league at keeping Stephen Curry under control, if not completely locked down.
They were bringing with them a tag-team duo specifically designed to slow the Warriors superstar.
They would throw Avery Bradley, a two-time All-Defensive team selection, at Curry to start the game.
Then they would turn things over to Patrick Beverley, also a two-time All-Defensive team pick – and a Hall of Fame irritant.
Good try. But, no. Two elite defenders, two utter failures, both cooked to a crisp by an intimidation-resistant man who thrives on supposedly difficult challenges.
Curry poured in 42 points, including a driving finger roll with 0.5 seconds remaining, to lift the Warriors to a 129-127 victory. Between the team’s success and winning his individual matchups, this was, for him, the height of delight – not that he would admit it.
“Good try,” Curry replied when asked if he felt a little something extra going against the Bradley-Beverley tag team.
“Great question. Good try, though.”
Curry was unwilling to verbalize the obvious because, from his viewpoint, it would be easy to perceive as gloating. Never mind that he earned that right. He knows quite well the reputations of Bradley and Beverley, and he wasn’t about to give credit for their past or blame for their present.
Both tried to live up to the honors. Bradley clung as tight as he could, playing clean but aggressive defense. Didn’t work.
Beverley, of course, went two steps further, getting physical, even shoving Curry with 9:31 left in the second quarter as a response to the Warriors star flexing after pulling down an offensive rebound. Crew chief Scott Foster issued a double technical for the brief non-exchange.
It brought back memories of Warriors-Clippers beefs of old.
“Patrick and Stephen’s stuff was minor and they got through that,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It was a much better Clippers and Golden State game because it was all about basketball, not about all the bull crap that existed. It’s two teams attacking each other.”
Didn’t work. Not only did Beverley’s bully ploy fail, it seemed to light a higher fire under Curry. He had 10 points before the incident, 32 after.
He also had a highly productive running mate in Kevin Durant, who delivered 35 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“I try to be a leader out there and a coach on the floor,” Draymond Green said. “When I have to call a play, it’s very easy: Give the ball to one of them two, and let them do what they do.”
Durant was spectacular on both ends, blocking three shots, including a pivotal rejection of Montrezl Harrell dunk attempt that fired up the crowd and initiated a fast break on which the Warriors scored to close out the third quarter.
Curry’s 42 points came on 12-of-22 shooting from the field, including 6-of-15 from deep. He played nearly 36 minutes and finished plus-8.
“You just get lost in the game,” Durant said. “You don’t really realize what you’re doing out there or what the score is or how many points you have or how many points your teammate has. You try not to think about it like, ‘Oh, we got it rolling tonight.’ We just try to move on each possession and be the best that we can in the present, try not to worry about what’s going to happen in the nest possession.
“You could tell that Steph was locked in on just the moment. Usually when you do that, you have a really good game, especially when you’re at the level he’s on.”
The Clippers had a solid plan, as no two perimeter defenders are fit, at least theoretically, to better contain Curry. Bradley and Beverley even bring contrasting styles.
Curry wasn’t in the mood to let any form of harassment bother him. No matter how good Bradley and Beverley were going to be at their job, Curry was determined to be better.
It’s the way he is wired, always eager to prove and re-prove his excellence. When you’ve done it as well as he has, and as often, there is no need to gloat.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News