Once the ball found its way into Stephen Curry’s hands in the final seconds of Tuesday’s game against Orlando, a two point deficit suddenly no longer seemed insurmountable.
As Curry raced up the floor with the clock winding down and Golden State’s nine-game winning streak on the line, Magic forward Tobias Harris served as the last obstacle.
The All-Star point guard drove to the right, sidestepped to the left and without hesitation, launched a shot against a defender with a five inch height advantage.
The ball fell through the net with 2.2 seconds remaining, and Golden State (15-2) held on for a 98-97 victory, it’s most dramatic of the season.
“If he’s going like that, we don’t call anything. We just let him go when he’s got the ball in his hands,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I always think he’s going to make every shot, that’s what you expect. He’s got the most beautiful rhythm to his shot and there’s a flow to his whole game where everything seems to come naturally to him.”
It’s easy to anticipate points will be scored when he launches a shot as Curry is a career 43.8 percent shooter from 3-point range and has connected 959 times from long range in his career.
But Tuesday night marked the first time he has ever made a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute of a game.
The former Davidson star had missed each of his previous seven career attempts from beyond the arc to put Golden State ahead in crunch time.
For the third consecutive season, Curry is leading the league in 3-point shooting, already connecting 54 times from beyond the arch this season, but his long range prowess had yet to translate into late game success.
Curry had attempted seven shots in the final minute of a game to either put the Warriors ahead or tie the game, and he missed each shot.
Against Orlando, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft had made just 2-0f-8 attempts from 3-point range before launching his game winning shot, but even with a sore ankle, he knew he was ready to deliver when the team needed it the most.
“My confidence is pretty high right now shooting the basketball and I’m going to try to keep that momentum going,” Curry said. “We’re going to have to play perfect basketball late in the games to get some of these wins. We’re winning in different styles and everyone is getting involved, you enjoy that as we go along.”
After 17 games, Curry ranks fifth in the league in both scoring (23.7 points per game) and assists (7.6) while taking a more prominent role on defense.
Instead of switching off elite point guards with Klay Thompson, Curry has worked extensively on the defensive end and is now responsible with defending any point guard, no matter the opposition.
The result has been 1.9 steals a game, eighth best in the league and the rest of the NBA has taken notice.
To begin the season, Curry was named Western Conference Player of the Week and was just selected as the Western Conference Player of the Month for the third time in his career.
His teammates are just glad they don’t have to defend Curry.
“It’s crazy, he’s one of the best players in the NBA if not the best right now,” Golden State forward Harrison Barnes said. “When he gets it going, it’s fun to be out there, I can definitely tell you that much.”
Curry’s shot seems to be falling each night, as he has connected on 50 percent of his attempts from the field on 10 occasions already.
The 6-foot-3 point guard is threatening to become just the seventh member of the NBA’s 50/40/90 club.
Curry is shooting 49.5 percent from the field, 41.2 percent from 3-point range and has converted 92.6 percent of his free throws.
While the individual accolades continue to pile up, the ultimate goal for Curry is team orientated.
“We expect to win a championship, that’s what we are working towards. Obviously it’s not easy, it’s not something you hurry to, you have to enjoy the process,” Curry said. “Right now I think we have a pretty high level expected and that’s good for us to stay in the moment and cherish every opportunity to play.”