Stephen Curry decimates Bucks in final minutes of Warriors win, flashing playoff-level grit Golden State needs
SAN FRANCISCO — Over the years, we’ve seen Steph Curry be in many things: Transcendent. Inspiring. Small. He moved, shuffled, put the teams to sleep, and pointed to the ring finger.
However, there is one thing we rarely see in Curry: a mean streak.
What he did to the Milwaukee Bucks in a nationally televised game on Saturday can only be described as malicious…heartless…even downright evil.
Curry had 17 points with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and his Golden State Warriors were eight points behind. When all was said and done, Curry scored 36 points as the Warriors took a 125–116 overtime victory. It was truly legendary stuff, even for a player whose legend was already over capacity.
“Stef is fearless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a slow start or if he hasn’t made much progress, he can fire it up at any moment,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the win. “I thought it was a comeback after all – I think we were down eight with two minutes left. Championship cases. This is a team that has won four titles.”
Curry cold-blooded three-pointer with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the score was tied and he nearly sent the Bucks to pull up 29 feet with just over two minutes left in overtime.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 12, 2023
Curry, who usually celebrates with childlike enthusiasm, refused to smile after the dagger, instead opting for a mean face that commanded equal parts horror and respect.
This look is from Steven.
HE KNOWS THE BUSINESS. pic.twitter.com/nwu6LpnwRw
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 12, 2023
After the game, Curry said the celebration was timed, with a slow walk to the bench allowing him to take full advantage of the three-minute timeout. He also said he didn’t want to scream to conserve energy. But under pressure, he admitted that the context of the game somehow influenced the menacing look.
“Obviously there’s a reaction to the game and you feel good,” Curry said. “We have shown a certain firmness and perseverance. It was a facial expression.”
Curry scored 20 of his 36 points in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, making the all too recent and inaccurate account of him not playing clutches even more ridiculous. He knew how much the Warriors needed every win in the Western Conference sardine pot, and Curry made it his mission to win the game.
The onslaught was even more impressive as he did so against two of the best defensemen in the NBA, Jrue Holiday and Jevon Carter. Draymond Green, who knows a bit about defense, noted Curry’s ability to create and land against such physical defenders.
“The way he told us was very impressive. He landed blow after blow,” Greene said. “And it wasn’t like what a lot of people created for him. He created for himself and made the shots that he wanted.
Curry’s will was not limited to an offensive end. After the Bucks finally mastered the rule, Holiday passed Warriors defenseman Donte Di Vincenzo and hoped he would have a clear path to the rim. It was then that Curry slid into the perfect position, parrying the shot with what Green called textbook verticality.
STEF DENIES JRUE ON HARDWARE 🖐
We have OT on ABC! pic.twitter.com/fwTXAmNQKO
— Sports Center (@SportsCenter) March 12, 2023
“I think the most important event in the game was the end of the regulations, the arrival of Steph,” said DiVincenzo. “Jru falls and Steph saves me. And he saves the game.”
It wouldn’t be a Steph Curry story without mentioning gravity. Once he starts acting like he did in the last seven minutes of Saturday’s game, his ability to get past defenses sets his teammates free. It just so happens that one of his teammates might be the best shooter on earth, not Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson, who scored only three points in the entire fourth quarter, scored two huge goals in overtime in part because of the space created by Curry’s presence.
“Perhaps get out of his way, put a screen on him, set up the floor,” Thompson said of his approach as Curry turns on one of the unconscious heaters. “He will get a lot more attention. So you’ll get open eyes if you just be patient and ready to shoot.”
Curry showed his wicked side last year by crushing the Boston Celtics en route to his first NBA Finals MVP. The energy and intensity he brought to this series was on display on Saturday and is likely to continue throughout the regular season as the Warriors battle it out for a playoff spot.
The victory over the Bucks moved the Golden State to 6th in the West, but only 2.5 games remained until the play-in was completely eliminated, and strong opponents such as the Nuggets, 66ers, Kings and the Suns on the horizon. With the way the Warriors have struggled on the road this season — their seven road wins — third-best in the entire NBA — Curry will have to bring the same intensity and steely look he has in the postseason as long as the Warriors go home for the offseason.
Ultimately, even with Curry’s firepower and determination, Golden State’s success will depend on their defensive efforts.
“We’re defending, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win,” Greene said. “You don’t defend and that’s bullshit – you try to beat teams on points and that often doesn’t work. I don’t care how good your scorers are.”