Golden State’s Stephen Curry scores 50 points in Game 7 and wins against Sacramento Kings
SACRAMENTO — The Golden State Warriors prepared for the finale of their first-round playoff series with the Sacramento Kings by gathering Saturday for an off-day film session on an upper floor of the Chase Center, their San Francisco home arena, with a panoramic view on the bay.
Coach Steve Kerr likes to host his film sessions there when space is available. Otherwise, he said, the team will be “stuck in the dungeons” outside his dressing room. He was grateful for the open space, especially ahead of Sunday’s seventh game. It was a therapeutic experience.
“I think there has to be perspective,” Kerr said, “even if it’s just a nice view and some sunshine and a chance to breathe and relax between games. That can make a difference.”
Something else can also make a difference: Stephen Curry. No one seemed more zen on Sunday than Curry, who led the Warriors to a 120-100 win that made the series crucial, impaling the Kings in every way possible on his way to 50 points – an NBA record for a game 7. He sunk parabolic 3 hands. He drove layups. He played with defenders.
Arriving at Golden 1 Center in an all-black ensemble as if dressed for a wake, Curry topped everyone and added eight rebounds and six assists. He shot 20 of 38 from the field and 7 of 18 from 3-point range.
“What an incredible all-time performance,” said golden state guard Klay Thompson. “It’s just a pleasure to share the backcourt with him and he never ceases to amaze me.”
The Kings had a magical season — their best in years — but Curry is still Curry and the Warriors are still the defending champions.
Western Conference No. 6 Golden State meets the Los Angeles Lakers in a conference semifinals that begins Tuesday in San Francisco. The Lakers eliminated the second-placed Memphis Grizzlies in their first-round series on Friday.
Sacramento led 58-56 at halftime as Golden State — a team known for years for eviscerating teams in the third quarter — went about their usual business. After Thompson sank a 3-pointer, Curry sliced through a mix of defenders to collect a layup, absorbing contact for good measure. The Kings’ Domantas Sabonis missed a floater at the other end, then Curry scored again to take Golden State’s lead to 7.
The prevailing mood in the arena was not necessarily panic, but fear. Curry had been in a situation like this so many times before, and none of it – not the hostile environment, not the pressure of Game 7 – seemed to bother him. In fact, he fed on it.
“This is one of the best players in the history of the game,” Kerr said, adding, “The resilience and the work that went into it, the focus, it’s incredible to see.”
In the closing moments of the third quarter, Curry found Thompson for an open 3-point try. Thompson made the shot and was fouled by the Kings’ Terence Davis. The Warriors led by 10. They hit 13 offensive rebounds in the quarter and Kevon Looney, their starting center, had seven of them. He finished with 11 points and 21 rebounds.
“The guy is an absolute winner and a machine,” Kerr said.
The Warriors and Kings franchises have long played less than 100 miles apart, but for much of the last decade they have produced very different brands of basketball — opposing brands of basketball, in fact.
While the Warriors were busy winning championships (four), playing in NBA Finals (six), and reengineering the way basketball is played thanks to the Splash Brothers (Curry and Thompson), the Kings spent the past decade struggling through a desert of futility that has pushed her to the brink of insignificance.
Sacramento went 30-52 last season, which was more like the same thing: a 16th straight loss. But the kings at least showed signs that they wanted to improve, that they wanted to change their reputation.
It was an overhaul that began last season when they acquired Sabonis, an all-star center, at the close of trade in a deal with Indiana. It continued into the offseason when they signed backup guard Malik Monk on a freelance basis, trading for Kevin Huerter and hiring Mike Brown, one of Kerr’s assistants, as their coach. They also capitalized on their position in the draft by picking Iowa forward Keegan Murray fourth overall.
In fact, the Kings, led by De’Aaron Fox, their all-star point guard, went 48-34 in the regular season and christened each win by firing a purple beam of light from the roof of their arena. “Light the beam!” became a rallying cry that helped bury – if not completely erase – the dysfunction of years past.
On Saturday night, Brown ate with his partner’s son at a restaurant in the Sacramento area. A small parade of boys approached their table to ask Brown some succinct questions about the team’s players as her streak with Golden State drew to a close.
They wanted to know about Sabonis’ right thumb, which broke during the regular season. They wanted to know about Fox’s broken left index finger, an injury he sustained during the playoffs. They wanted to know if Murray would be willing to shoot in Game 7.
“And one of the kids was a Warriors fan, so they started ripping him,” Brown said. “And he said, ‘No, I’m not! No I’m not!’ But he was wearing a Golden State Warriors hat.”
More than anything, Brown said, he could sense their excitement — a kind of anticipation for the postseason that Sacramento hadn’t seen in years.
As for the Warriors, their roster seemed to be in constant flux throughout the regular season. Curry injured his shoulder and sprained his ankle. Andrew Wiggins, the starting XI’s small forward, left the team in mid-February for personal reasons and missed the final 25 games of the regular season.
Kerr, meanwhile, struggled to strike a balance between securing a playoff berth (not a sure thing) and developing young players like Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman, which was eventually traded midseason. Ultimately, Kerr continued to lean on the usual suspects – Curry, Thompson and defensive stubborn Draymond Green – as the postseason grew in focus.
The Warriors welcomed Wiggins’ return early in the playoffs, but then lost their first two games, presenting a new obstacle: Curry, Thompson and Green trailed 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time in their careers. Maybe they needed a new challenge.
“To do that for a decade is incredible,” Kerr said of his regulars. “The energy it takes to hold your own against challengers and set up and win games, year after year, and do it over and over again — there’s a reason these guys are Hall of Famers and champions.”