Here is a link to my Friday column about Game 6 between the Warriors and Clippers, and Stephen Curry. The full text runs below. I’m flying back down to LA on Friday. It feels like I live in LA.
OAKLAND — The Warriors won because of Stephen Curry. He wasn’t the only reason. But he was the big reason.
What they won with their 100-99 victory over the Clippers was a seventh game, a do-or-die, loser-goes-home game in L.A. Saturday to end one of the strangest playoff series in the history of the NBA.
In the entire history of sports, for that matter.
The series has involved secret tapes showing Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is a racist, his girlfriend coyly apologizing for her dark skin color.Sterling putting down African-Americans. Sterling a bigot and an old fool.
The series has involved teams almost not playing in protest and teams wearing black socks in protest, and it involved the commissioner banning Sterling for life in three days.
The series also has involved basketball. To an extent. The basketball came and went and sometimes was the secondary storyline.
But on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the sold-out arena the Warriors want to dump, Curry played like a star. He had not always done that.
He also had come and gone in this series, dominating some games, being passive and small in others. What would he do in Game 6, a game the Warriors had to win to save their season?
He scored 14 points in the first quarter, 18 in the first half, getting off that lightning-release jumper, and you realized he was the best player on the floor. He can be the best when things go right for him.
He needs things to go right, the floor spacing perfect, his teammates making screens for him, breaking him free.
If he had failed, the Warriors would have failed. He ended up with 24 points.
Before the game, Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers, so honest, explained what makes Curry almost impossible to guard:
Q: “Why can you slow down Stephen Curry some nights and not others?”
Rivers: “Because he’s Stephen Curry. He’s really good. Sometimes, I think we slow him down. Sometimes, I think he becomes human and he misses shots. He’s one of the greatest shooters I’ve ever seen. We’re trying to just keep a big body in his face every time, but when he gets loose, especially in transition, he’s deadly. We’ve limited our turnovers for the most part, and it seems like we’ve done them in bunches in this series, and that’s when they make runs.
“But he’s just a very difficult guy to guard. It would be easier if he couldn’t dribble, but the guy can shoot and dribble, and that’s what makes him so good. And he can come off picks without the ball, so he’s just a very difficult guy to game plan for.”
Rivers was more complimentary of Curry than Mark Jackson was. Strange.
Before the game, I asked Jackson why Curry doesn’t take over all the games, why he passes and sometimes acts, well, passive as he did in Game 5 which the Warriors lost.
I said superstars take over in big games. I said Michael Jordan wouldn’t keep passing the ball to teammates in a playoff series.
At a certain point he’d say, “Give me the damn ball.” I didn’t use the word “damn” with Jackson.
“I appreciate that question,” Jackson said, “but this just in. Steph Curry is not Michael Jordan.”
“He’s your Michael Jordan,” I said.
“He’s not my Michael Jordan. He’s not anybody’s Michael Jordan. I love him to death and he’s a heck of a basketball player. At the end of the day, Michael Jordan is 6-foot-7, freak athlete, tremendous strength, cat like quickness, the ability to maneuver, get to his spots and, in spite of great defense, shoot over them.
“Steph Curry is being trapped by a 7-foot freak athlete in (DeAndre) Jordan or a 6-foot-10 freak athlete in Blake (Griffin) along with a big time defender at the point guard position, (Chris) Paul and whoever. There are times he’s going to be aggressive. Then there are times he’s going to look to make plays. I would argue the case that being too aggressive can force turnovers also. So he’s got to use wisdom, and I have confidence that he’ll do just that.”
On Thursday, Curry used wisdom. He got his points and he got his assists — nine — and controlled the rhythm of the game.
There was the time in the third quarter he drove to the hoop, spotted Draymond Green on the side, beyond the 3-point line, lined him a pass and Green, as alone as an island, measured the shot for about a century and hit nothing but net.
There was the time in the fourth quarter when Curry drove the lane, through every Clippers player, and flipped ball in hoop as smooth as you please. The Warriors went up by six.
Compare Curry to Blake Griffin who labored for his shots, fought against double and triple teams, sometimes lost the ball, tried to bank the ball off the glass and mostly hit iron and saw the ball roll into free air.
Finally, frustrated, he fouled out. It was a case of one superstar — Griffin — flaming out, and the other — Curry — setting the world on fire.
There are games when Curry is the best. There are games — and there will be games — when he vanishes. It’s who he is, what he does. On Thursday, he wasn’t Michael Jordan. Being Stephen Curry was enough.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.